cover image Second Skin

Second Skin

Eric Van Lustbader, Lustbader. Atria Books, $22 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-671-86810-9

Sex, violence and violent sex, plus lots of hokey Eastern mysticism--in other words, typical Lustbader fare--dominate the action in this sixth Nicholas Linnear novel, which brings to a close events begun in The Kaisho and continued in Floating City. Nicholas, half-British and half-Japanese, heads a computer firm on the verge of a mega-breakthrough that here is threatened by: a crazed Nietzsche-spouting American gangster who is Nicholas's doppelganger; the gangster's equally crazed, California-based brother, who's trying to take over the Eastern U.S. Mafia family run by a middle-aged suburban matron; an unholy mix of Japanese tycoons, pols and Yakuza; and a creepy, untrustworthy aide to Nicholas's ailing mentor. And then there's the order of nuns who fight evil in myriad ways, up to and including using their bodies in distinctly un-nunlike fashion. Fortunately, Nicholas has ``Tau-tau, the secret knowledge of ancient psycho-necromancers,'' useful in a pinch for moving guided missiles or supercharged motorcycles but prone to side effects that cause depressing blackouts without moving the plot at all. As usual, Lustbader's prose can be as corny as what it describes (``It was a daring and dangerous plan, but it was their only chance to bring Bad Clams down. Or it was going to get all of them dead''), but his fans and armchair ninjas won't be disappointed with this energetic entry in the series. Major ad/promo; British, translation, first serial, movie and TV rights: Henry Morrison. (June)