Patriotism, Christianity, love, and lust complicate the lives of some very likable young people in Japan in the last years before Pearl Harbor. Deford, NPR commentator, novelist (Casey on the Loose, 1989, etc.), and sportswriter, tackles the Japanese and Japanese-ness in this consistently interesting story about two friends who are sucked into the heart of the plans for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cotton Drake and Kiyoshi Okuno have known each other most of their lives. Cotton is the son of Episcopal missionaries whose Japanese education and childhood friendships have made him truly bicultural. He and Okuno go off to Yale and Harvard, planning to go into business together, and they make a successful start in Hawaii in the late 30's. But Cotton's religious leanings get the better of him and he returns to Japan as a missionary. At the same time, a friendship with the great Admiral Yamamoto draws the disappointed Kiyoshi into a job spying on the Americans, whom he knows so well and whom he so admires. Yamamoto thinks an attack on Pearl Harbor will keep the Americans out of a Pacific war, and Kiyoshi believes him enough to help. As Kiyoshi scouts out the US Navy, Cotton tries to save Japanese souls while his own is imperiled by a most un-Christian attraction to Kiyoshi's wife, Miyuki, who has her own fascinating history. Meanwhile, intimations of Yamamoto's designs lead Cotton to intrigue with a Tokyo prostitute and put his friendship with Kiyoshi to test after frightening test. There's a lot of business with a treacherous American diplomat who wants the war to start and a Japanese general who shares his eagerness. Everything boils down to a desperate race to warn the Yanks. Always interesting, occasionally affecting: Deford's ambition to show the run-up to the war from the Japanese side is largely fulfilled. There's no wretched translato-speak; the coincidences that are the convention of the genre don't distract; and the scenery fascinates.