The Yellow Menace returns in Crichton's shocking, didactic, enormously clever new mystery-thriller--only now he wears a three-piece suit and aims to dominate America through force of finance, not arms. "The Japanese can be tough," says one character here. "They say 'business is war,' and they mean it." How much they mean it Lt. Peter J. Smith, LAPD, learns when he's assigned to the murder of an American call-girl at the gala opening of the L.A. high-rise headquarters of the Japanese conglomerate Nakamoto. There, Smith butts heads with men whose alien mannerisms he can't interpret and who insist on their own "private inquiry." Fortunately, he's joined by legendary Japan-savvy cop John Connor, the real hero here, a Holmes to narrator Smith's Watson. At the crime scene and thereafter, Connor, whose love/hate for the Japanese stems from years lived in their land, interprets Japanese ways to Smith: "Control your gestures. Keep your hands at your sides. The Japanese find big arm movements threatening..." Connor's commentary is always fascinating but, as the serpentine case coils on, numerous instances of Japanese financial dirty dealing are cited by characters who disparage the Japanese sufficiently ("The Japanese don't believe in fair trade at all"; "Japanese corporations in America...think they're surrounded by savages") to bathe Smith--and the novel--in xenophobic paranoia: It's not by chance that the only likable Japanese here is a crippled beauty who fled to America because "to the Japanese, deformity is shameful." Crichton's coup is to preach within a breathtakingly supple plot hinging on doctored Nakamoto security videotapes that caught the killer at work, the deciphering of which takes place in lab-set scenes as technologically riveting as the best in Jurassic Park. And as suspenseful--for as Smith closes in on the killer and the huge-money stakes behind the crime, Nakamoto agents threaten his family, his career, and his life. Brilliantly calculated Japan-bashing that's bound, for better or for worse, to attract controversy and a huge readership.