At ScienceThrillers.com, I specialize in books that have scientific or medical content (see my post on how this is different from science fiction). But sometimes I come across a book that simply is too good not to share, even if it lies outside my technophile niche. Welcome to the Book Buzz review of TOKYO KILL.
Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet, is book #2 in an outstanding Asia-themed detective series that began last year with Lancet’s acclaimed debut Japantown (reviewed by ScienceThrillers here.)
Summary from the publisher:
Antiques dealer-turned-P.I. Jim Brodie matches wits with an elusive group of killers chasing a long-lost treasure that has a dangerous history.
When an elderly World War II veteran shows up unannounced at Brodie Security begging for protection, the staff thinks he’s just a paranoid old man. He offers up a story connected to the war and to Chinese Triads operating in present-day Tokyo, insisting that he and his few surviving army buddies are in danger.
Fresh off his involvement in solving San Francisco’s Japantown murders, antiques dealer Jim Brodie had returned to Tokyo for some R&R, and to hunt down a rare ink painting by the legendary Japanese Zen master Sengai for one of his clients—not to take on another case with his late father’s P.I. firm. But out of respect for the old soldier, Brodie agrees to provide a security detail, thinking it’ll be an easy job and end when the man comes to his senses.
Instead, an unexpected, brutal murder rocks Brodie and his crew, sending them deep into the realm of the Triads, Chinese spies, kendo warriors, and an elusive group of killers whose treachery spans centuries—and who will stop at nothing to complete their mission.
ScienceThrillers review: Nobody else can do what author Barry Lancet does in his Japan-themed thriller series. Lancet is an American who has lived in Japan for over twenty-five years. He has a deep understanding of Japanese culture and history, and a strong sensibility for those aspects of Japan that seem most foreign to Americans. Tokyo Kill would be a very good thriller based solely on the plot and writing. Include the fascinating cultural context which permeates the story and you’ve got a must-read thriller masterpiece.
Lancet’s cultural understanding, and knowledge of Japanese art and artifacts, shines through in his main character Jim Brodie. Brodie is, unsurprisingly, an American who lives with one foot in the US and the other in Japan. He is professionally split as well, working as both an Asian art dealer in San Francisco and manager of a Tokyo-based private security/detective company that he inherited from his father. While Brodie’s bulldog persistence in the face of danger can seem foolhardy, it is his defining trait.
Tokyo Kill is a page-turning, absorbing read with enough plot questions and twists to keep the protagonist running and the reader reading. Plenty of thriller authors create books that do this. What makes Tokyo Kill special is the “mysterious Orient.” This book is a fine example of setting as character. Tokyo Kill could not take place in another city, much less another country, without eviscerating the story. Japanese culture and history are integral to the characters and the plot. The fate of Japanese soldiers (and war criminals) after WWII; looted treasures from the last emperor of China; the role of women in Japanese law enforcement; the importance of status relationships; the culture of kendo fighting; tea drinking; the history of swordmaking in Japan; all these are important. When Jim Brodie is led through the back alleys of Tokyo’s Chinatown, and when he dines with a dangerous spy in an elite Tokyo restaurant, the author’s vivid descriptions will transport you to this fascinating country far away.
Tokyo Kill is an intelligent, engrossing thriller novel with a sinuous plot leading from Tokyo to the Caribbean. Readers with even a passing interest in Japanese culture will love this book. If you eat sushi, read Tokyo Kill.