British author Sutherland's (Due Diligence and East of the City) insider depiction of the protected world of the United Nations, whether accurate or not, lends authenticity to a plot that on reflection may seem preposterous but is totally believable while racing through it. Sam Windrush, a U.N. legal affairs deputy, is thrown into the investigation and possible cover-up of the death of his pacifist friend, Toshio Hatanaka, a refugee specialist. Hatanaka was the negotiator three years earlier in a hostage situation in Pakistan, during which Sam's wife was murdered. Hatanaka's body turns up just as the General Assembly is about to vote on giving Japan a permanent seat on the Security Council. Aided by the deputy head of U.N. security, Sam unearths backstabbing, pretentiousness, deception and fear beneath a veneer of international amity. Suspicion points to several high-ranking U.N. diplomats, with the inquiry uncovering fraud on top of murder. Sam must cope with mysterious forces trying to quash the investigation, as well as with his teenage daughter Rachel, recently recovered from anorexia, being wrongfully accused of Hatanaka's murder. In a novel where almost every big shot has a motive, the fluky unmasking of the real killer may seem a bit of a cheat, especially when the unsuspected culprit's reasons for the deed turn out to be very personal. Nonetheless, the author uses the rarified world of the U.N. to his advantage in a fast-paced novel that will keep readers engaged. (May 8) Forecast: Since this is Sutherland's first novel to be published in the U.S., Bantam is making a concerted promotional effort, including a generous distribution of advance reading copies. An attractive jacket and the unusual U.N. setting should also help sales, as will enthusiastic blurbs from Christopher Reich and Stephen White.