Writing thrillers is no easy venture for any writer, and I’ve said that before with many of the previous thriller I’ve gotten the chance to read and review for this blog. Thrillers are easily some of the most challenging books, for any writer, to try their hand at writing. Many of these thrillers are published by one my favorite publishing companies, Simon and Schuster, who have now impressed me with yet another well-written thriller novel that contains both carefully balanced combination of scenes with either adeptly-paced action sequences, deeply fascinating political intrigue and fairly entertaining social/domestic drama; all of these elements are finely balanced in a book that could have merely developed these things haphazardly. Sometimes, these various stylistics elements are not always so well-balanced, as is the case with some inferior thrillers, which may focus entirely on the precision of the high-octane action sequences, while completing omitting and shortchanging the fundamental social and domestic scenes of character development that are imperative when trying to write something that doesn’t just generally entertain, but actually involves the character’s emotions. And, I felt that the strongest element of Barry Lancet’s novel Tokyo Kill, as such, was the ability to maintain the frenetic pacing of the action and ensuing drama involved with the core crime plot in this novel, while providing the readers very nice scenes of either introspection on the story’s main protagonist Jim Brodie and his relationship with both his daughter and a female love interest, Rei, who happens to be a female cop in a culture, where a mostly patriarchal culture is still trying to acclimate itself to the growing extension of women’s roles in the working world.
It is the fascinating social and introspective drama, fused together with some very well-researched, trenchant reflections about modern Japanese culture that really enhances the enjoyment of Tokyo Kill. First off, it was really nice to be offered quieter scenes of Jim, tending to his role as the single father, to his six-year old daughter, because you see a surplus of single-mothers in fiction, but you never are given many respectable stories of single fathers, without a patronizing undertone to these scenes. So, that element alone really earned my respect for this writer, for overriding such easy stereotypes of only sketching the single parent, as being only female, but instead showing the true nature of the sociological codes of our society forcing as many men as women to often take up the hard, but very rewarding ( and sometimes onerous) task of taking care of one or more children.
Jim Brodie, taking over operations of his dad’s Japanese security firm, while still serving as an art dealer, has quite a lot of taxing responsibilities to juggle, and his role as an art-dealer really seems like something entirely separate from the security firm work, from the beginning of Tokyo Kill’s deceptively formulaic beginning. We are so accustomed to all these things in the life of a crime investigator, being entirely fragmented and separated from one another, so it is always a great surprise to the reader, when the author shows just how interrelated how these elements really are in life, preventing Barry Lancet’s from becoming too trope-infested. For the most part, Barry Lancet writes this story ,genre-wise, mainly as a thriller, but he lets the novel have just enough versatility to really make this exemplary thriller stand out from the other, more formulaic rivals in the genre.
More importantly, the cultural details are extremely accurate, and it is these cultural elements that really bring twenty-first century Japan, and its crime underworld alive. This marked authenticity, with respects to the story’s setting, is a result of the fact that Barry Lancet spent a good portion of his life living in Japan, and subconsciously soaking up all the disparate details of this complex culture that fascinated him, as a future writer. Later in life, it would come spilling out into his novel, thus giving it an authentic Japanese spirit. His novel is analogous to just how much better a foreign language professor or teacher is, when they actually hail from a country, where the language being taught was widely spoken there. All the details about Tokyo, the dozens of fascinatingly diverse restaurants and nightclubs that really add a certain unique flavor to a wholly versatile novel are things that feel seamlessly included in the story, rather than something contrived by forced research. And even with the most skilled researchers, there is always that artificial sense, in some stories, where there is very little authenticity with the setting. So for Barry Lancet to suffuse his thriller novel with a real setting, where he had physically lived in for a certain measure of time, really helps give this novel that wonderful atmosphere that the Japan in this story is very real and tactile, rather than constructed from artificial texturing from a writer’s distant imagining of such a place.
The setting itself does not just feel authentic, but the sociological and political issues in this story’s world, emerge as something that doesn’t feel merely fabricated, for the sake of providing more contrived drama to the story’s main crime plot-line. Rather, these things, again, crop up in the novel, naturally, as part of the story’s fully-realized setting. For example, the gender politics and ramifications for Rei, as a female cop in a Japan that is still reluctantly changing its rigid patriarchal views, are subtly developed, and shown through her actions and interactions with the other characters in the story, without overwhelming either the main plot-line, or the various subplots. Now, the only small note of criticism that I have about Rei’s relationship with Jim was that the dialogue that passes between does often feel stilted, and their relationship development sometimes reaches a dramatic stalemate, thus making their scenes feel like the one false note, in a novel that is always very dramatic and engrossing. It is the one alienating factor for the reader, who might feel a bit detached from the narrative at these scenes, when their conversations don’t seem to be contributing to further developing any important relationship arc for the story.
But for the most part, these scenes do not occur frequently enough for them, to deprive the reader of any enjoyment from a novel that is inescapably suspenseful. In other words, the inescapable factor of the story comes from just how deeply interesting the rich Japanese setting, the political intrigue of the crime plot, and all the other titillating features of this rich thriller novel, which will undoubtedly have readers flipping pages at a rapid pace till there is nothing left. I personally await another entry in this fantastic series with bated breath!! If you love your thriller novels to be multifaceted, and have interesting insight into a culture completely different from your own, Barry Lancet’s Tokyo Kill then is a novel that you should definitely consider checking out, particularly if you have a long commute via train or bus to work each day, and need something that is guaranteed to help you pass that morning /evening commute slog with relative ease!!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for once again giving me the opportunity to read another wildly entertaining thriller!! Their support for this blog has no bearing, at all, on my overall objective and fair assessment of this book!!