Certainly the idea of a chemical formula that would solve the world's oil problems is a reasonable hook for a thriller, but Shagan (City of Angels, Save the Tiger) surrounds that central notion with tricky, confused plottings that fail to conceal the lack of any genuine suspense knack. An ex-cop who's been dabbling in the L.A. cocaine/orgy scene is found torture-murdered in his bed--did the killing stem from the dead man's smuggling racket or from something else? Los Angeles Police troubleshooter Barney Caine leans toward the something-else theory--especially when the ex-cop's wife is also murdered, when evidence points toward Mafia and/or terrorist involvement, and when the dead man's WW II record shows that he was responsible for handling the secret files of Nazi scientists working on a project code-named ""Genesis."" So off goes Caine to Germany to find out what happened to the ""Genesis"" scientists and what their project was. And, sure enough, once Caine starts investigating-he learns that ""Genesis"" is a formula for a world-shaking coal-into-oil synthetic fuel process--the secretive old scientists start to get killed off. Teaming up with the niece of one of these murdered Germans (or is she really a ""terrorist lady""?), Barney is soon on the run, formula in hand; after ail, the all-powerful Oil Cartel is out to eliminate him and anyone else promoting a synthetic-oil plan. . . . Some okay seamy-LA, atmosphere, a few lively action sequences--but, overall, a nifty initial idea wasted on an unengaging hero and frittered away in convoluted, farfetched, slow-moving intrigues.