In Australia writer Dedman's first novel, drifter-photographer Michelangelo ``Mage'' Magistrale runs into beautiful blond Amanda Sharmon in a small Canadian town. Mage lends Amanda some money; she gives him a key on a loop of what seems to be human hair. Subsequently, in an L.A. youth hostel, Mage meets stuntman and Japanese-demon expert Charles Takumo moments before they're attacked by a disembodied head and a pair of hands. Evidently, Amanda had stolen something from powerful businessman-gangster Tamenaga, and he wants it back. It turns out that Tamenaga now possesses two magical ``foci'': Amanda stole a third--the key perhaps? Well, it opens doors--any door--but Mage finds it's the hair that has the magic properties. Takumo tries to teach Mage how to use the magic, and not long after, Amanda's body turns up in a dumpster, causing the police arrest Mage on suspicion. His public defender, Kelly Barbet, only gradually becomes convinced that Mage is telling the truth in denying his guilt. Once freed on bail, Mage will master the magic and prepare to confront Tamenaga; later he will learn that the god who supposedly created the foci, Hotei, actually exists, even though he can't remember much. An agreeable blend of oriental fantasy and noir-ish sleuthing: a polished, well-organized debut, complemented by Dedman's nice light touch on the tiller.