While Innocent Employments (1978) sank in a babble of fanciful foolishness, Beardwood's second Big Business novel takes a far more nitty-gritty approach--with little more success: each element of the plot (which often seems made up as Beardwood goes along, exhausting one angle and taking up another) is larded with lengthy, sweaty, usually nasty boardroom/backroom chatter. The center of all this hubbub is Flagler Aerospace, a California research and development outfit run by gutsy Ed Flagler, who's currently putting all he's got into controversial hypersonic-jet research--super-fast planes running on liquefied hydrogen. But to keep his company afloat while pouring millions into this project, Flagler borrows heavily from an international consortium of banks--two of which send ""watchdogs"" to check out the Flagler operation. New York watchdog Jim Prior, who'll discover that Flagler's finance man is into ""creative accounting,"" also gets free of his own shrewish wife back home, goes to his first gay bar (""The Neutered Duck"") with a new girlfriend, and gets fired for being naive about a bribe offer from Flagler; German watchdog Wilhelm Rocholl seduces Flagler's much-younger, bored, kinky wife. And then, with Beardwood scrambling to supply plot for the book's second half, another company announces its hypersonic discoveries. . . clearly stolen from Flagler. So Prior, under suspicion himself, slowly (trips to Las Vegas and Germany) proves who leaked the Flagler plans--and all ends happily as Flagler merges his way to financial security, takes revenge on the ultimate villain (a noncharacter), and decides to accept his wife's baby (by the German watchdog) as his own. . . . With often-stilted dialogue, occasional glimmers of satire, and isolated, pointless eruptions of hard-core sex: a well-informed, properly cynical, but unfocused business gabfest--surefire entertainment only for those with a burning interest in bank-syndicate loans and/or aeronautic research.