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The newest from Gross (Mirror, 1981; coauthor, with Pierre Salinger, of Mortal Games, 1988, etc.) is an international thriller cum travelogue, food column, social treatise--on ethnicity and the demise of San Francisco--as well as a plain, comfortable novel sporting some mildly exotic sexual interludes. The gangsters here are from Hong Kong, members of the exploding San Francisco Chinese immigrant community fleeing their island nation on the eve of its repossession by communist China. As for the cop side of things, Gross substitutes wealthy Jewish SFPD captain Zack Tobias, a serious epicurean and son of a society matron, for the central-casting version of a tormented gumshoe, and sets up an at least superficially engaging case that revolves around a brutal hit on a local TV reporter who inadvertently stumbled across a far-reaching network of dirty Asian business arrangements. Tobias, head of the Asian crime division, takes the case personally. Between scrumptious meals at Frisco's fine eateries and saucy but non-food sessions with Britt, his Swedish squeeze, Tobias goes to war with his chief over the investigation. Eventually suspended for defying orders, he follows the trail to Hong Kong, where he uncovers a San Francisco businessman's connection to a big-time crimelord and gets bedded again, this time by a p.r. agent whose skin is repeatedly compared with ivory and who showcases some frisky skills. Racing down blind alleys, Tobias is poisoned in Hong Kong, then messed with by a bad cop back home, but he's determined to seek justice, even if it means putting the screws on his evil yuppie sister. Altogether, this is basically a socially conscious urban love-letter without enough clever twists to make up for the snoozy parts. Not terrible, but not much more, either, than a guilty rich guy's tour of the Bay Area, plus cops and gangsters. More gunfights might have helped.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Random