309 pages. Occasional B&W art.
I have previously reviewed The Detachment, which the author identifies as his seventh in the series about the assassin John Rain. Fascinating by the quality of the writing, I decided to go back to the first book of the series...
John Rain - born to Japanese and American parents, raised in both countries, trained in Special Forces, Vietnam War veteran, former mercenary - has found a niche for himself in modern Japan. When Japan's ruling party needs someone eliminated, they contract with Rain - whose specialty is making it look like natural causes.
He has three rules:
Is the target a man? I don't work against women. Have you retained anyone else to resolve this problem? If you hire me, it's an exclusive. And is the target a principle? I resolve problems directly, like the soldier I once was, not by sending messages through third parties.
Due to his work, Rain lives a shadowy life in Tokyo - always security conscious, avoiding relationships that might prove a liability, deliberately cultivating the ability to slip through society without being noticed. His few comforts are martial arts training, jazz, and eclectic drinking establishments. He would like to escape his memories of Vietnam, but somehow they keep coming back to him.
As the novel begins, Rain assassinates a high-level Japanese bureaucrat on the subway. The job goes well, but he's troubled when a stranger searches the dead man - who is he, and what is he looking for? Then a chance encounter introduces him to the victim's daughter - Midori, a beautiful jazz musician.
The plot proceeds to unravel from that point... Who is following Midori? Why does someone want her dead? Is Rain being doublecrossed? How is the CIA involved? And as the plot unravels, so does Rain's carefully planned life... and acquaintances from the past reveal themselves.
This is a great noir novel that combines suspense, martial arts, a doomed love affair, loyalty (and betrayal), lots of twists and turns, with a conclusion that skillfully wraps up some plot lines while leaving room for a sequel.
Barry Eisler is a very talented writer, and he turns Tokyo into the mesmerizing backdrop for this novel - from the subway stations to the alleys, from fruit shops to restaurants with a convenient view.
As this book deals with an assassin, it does feature a measure of violence - ruthlessly administered, discussed in an almost clinical manner at times. There is also some sex. Obviously, not a book for younger readers.
This novel was the basis for the 2009 movie of the same name.
Wargamers looking for a plot will appreciate the subtleties of the Japanese political scene. Those looking for scenario ideas may be disappointed, as the fighting is typically man-on-man and involves martial arts rather than gun play.
This is an excellent novel of the hit man genre, and I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .