Thomson’s third departs from his mystery successes (Breaking Faith, 1996, etc.) and closes with a fine account of the 2002 Olympic women’s figure-skating finals—though a reader would have to be a real afficionado to still be interested. Part-Japanese Megumi (“Maggie”) Campbell is a starry-eyed skater who, with her athletic/romantic partner Clay Bartlett, envisions Olympic gold in pairs competition. Enter scheming, spoiled All-American Doreen (“Doe”) Rawlings, who adores Clay and, in an auto accident, ends his career hopes with Maggie. No matter: her love for Clay intact, Maggie returns to Japan, her girlhood home, to train for the daunting singles competitions under the yoga-like tutelage (“be the music, Maggie”) of her aging teacher, Madam Goto. Thomson cooks up a pair of trivial subplots—involving cell phones, the criminal underground, and a relentless national xenophobia—apparently intended not only to reveal Japan’s dreary, hierarchical, sexist, and exclusionary cultural life but to show its way of compromising Maggie’s fighting spirit. Back home, meanwhile, Clay becomes a rich, money-grubbing cad who conspires with an evil exhibitions manager to undermine Maggie’s success. To no avail, though, since Maggie, having rekindled a childhood crush with the outcast Hiro, drops the vile Clay, embraces Hiro, and skates to victory. In her final triumph, Maggie is inspired by a Japanese fighter pilot’s kamikaze haiku, written just before his gruesome suicide—a sadly misconceived device that works best as an example of the hazards of lazy writing. Thomson’s previous outings were admired for their plots, and even here he writes action sequences well. His characters, though, are as dry as rice cakes and predictable as metronomes. For fans of skating, there’s a little Nancy, some Tonya, a bit of Tara, and a lot of preliminary circling before the final action.