Martin Gower either has inside knowledge of both Japanese yakuza and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or an extremely vivid imagination. Perhaps he has both. In any case, the result is a narrative of terrifying authenticity, utterly enthralling from beginning to end. In brief, the central character Jun - the `thinking man's hoodlum' - gets caught up in a plot to assassinate the "Dear Leader", along with a disaffected North Korean official and a hot American called Sam who changes colour to suit her surroundings. Well, that's the story, held together with lashings of sex and violence, and no small dose of sadism. But like all good fiction, Maximum Target works on a deeper level at the same time; it examines issues like loyalty to principles, as well as the historical and political realities of East Asia. This is a wider world than found in the `Inspector O' novels, where the action is firmly set north of the 38th parallel. From the Mongolian steppe to the back alleys of Macau, Gower vividly conjures up not only the sights and sounds but also the smells of the Far East - like 'em or not! The characters are boldly uncompromising, the different timbres of dialogue a work in themselves. Not easy making a Japanese and a Korean converse in English, but Gower manages it. Moments of love and lust are interspersed with pulsating cliffhangers, and the final revelation is quite staggering. With the growing prominence of East Asia on the global scene, I would expect more fiction of this sort to be emerging in future. Martin Gower may well be riding on the crest of a wave.