This debut novel by a former Washington Post Tokyo bureau chief offers an engaging hero, an unlikely but at least possible scenario, and manages to play upon American fears about increasing Japanese economic domination without engaging in some of the gratuitous Japan-bashing that's become so popular. John Piper is a run-of-the-mill journalist running the Tokyo office of a nondescript newspaper, a position created more to satisfy the ego of the publisher than actually to cover the news. Piper's in love with, but afraid to approach, his beautiful assistant, Kyoko Kimamura, and is basically just going through the motions. Just as Congress is about to pass a severe new expropriation bill to seize Japanese-owned factories in the US, the intrepid pair decide to try a new angle on their annual Hiroshima story and track down the truth about the failed Japanese version of the Manhattan Project and the fates of the scientists who tried to develop a Japanese atom bomb. This turns out to be easier said than done, and the trail of deceit and conflicting stories leads them deeper and deeper into a secret operation that its leaders are more than willing to kill to preserve. Because Piper is a most likable fellow, and the Kyoko seen through his eyes a desirable and delightful creature indeed (the resolution of their growing attraction, naked in a small-town laundromat, is warm, funny, and original), readers are likely to forgive a sometimes leisurely pace and the somewhat obvious mystery and see this intriguing story through to the end. An impressive debut from a writer who can paint the Japanese as a threat without obscuring his own critical affection for the people and their culture.