Picks and Pans Review: Disclosure

updated 01/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Michael Crichton

Tom Sanders, a key technical manager al DigiCom's Seattle office, is reeling from the unexpected punch of a sexual harassment suit. It's the usual: An office sexual encounter has turned bitter, leading lo furious accusations and countercharges. The big difference here is that it's Tom who is claiming harassment.

Leaping boldly from Jurassic Park, Crichton places his ninth novel in the cauldron of contemporary sexual politics. The result—an unsettling look at a world where men are, in Tom's words, "assumed to be guilty of anything they were accused of"—is bound to ruffle more than a few politically correct feathers. No matter. Like Rising Sun before it, Disclosure raises more questions than it answers. And by turning the issue upside down—with the woman the villain, the man the maligned (if not innocent) party—Crichton offers a fresh and provocative story.

Tom's troubles begin when he is passed over for an expected promotion that goes instead to Meredith Johnson, a not particularly qualified executive who is also, alas, one of Tom's old flames. Though he is married (to a lawyer) and the father of two children, he goes to her office, as she requests, at 6 p.m. the evening of the announcement. Wink, wink, says the secretary as she locks the door behind her. Have a glass of wine, says Meredith. And pretty soon—well, Tom finds himself in a compromising position. The company is on the verge of a merger that could make Tom millions, so when Meredith eventually moves to boot him (she may be incompetent, but boy can she scheme!), Tom gets himself a lawyer.

Crichton propels his plot with his trademark twists of technology. That's fun, and fine, and probably filmable, but many readers will yearn for more sociological and psychological probing. What motivates Meredith? How does Tom's wife react? In Disclosure, Crichton has stripped the P.C. coating off the sexual harassment issue; it's just too bad that he backed off from the raw emotions exposed beneath. (Knopf, $24)

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