Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dear Barry Eisler, author of A Clean Kill in Tokyo

Dear Barry Eisler,

Last year I read Livia Lone, the first in your new series about the badass titular character. It was my favorite mystery of 2017. I knew I wanted to start the rest of your backlist from the beginning, and I couldn't resist waiting to read your first mystery, renamed A Clean Kill in Tokyo, while I traveled through Tokyo earlier this month, as I love to read books set where I'm traveling.

I started A Clean Kill in Tokyo around 4:30 in the morning in Des Moines. I expected it would keep me company as I flew first to Chicago, then Tokyo, and finally to my final destination of Bangkok, where, incidentally, Livia Lone spent some time.

From the opening scenes (and the opening kill) of A Clean Kill in Tokyo, I knew I was in for a thrilling read. This book is relentless. As I read, I was impressed at how you balanced the pacing, character development, and setting. Tokyo (and to a large extent, Japan as a whole), is a character in this novel. As I read, I learned more about the city, the country, its culture and customs, and its government.

Two things happened while I was reading this book that will forever make me think of when I read it. First, our simple layover at Narita airport became a landing at Narita and bus transfer to Haneda airport. As I read, I realized I would get to see more of Tokyo than only the airport. I was ecstatic to see a little bit of the city I'd been picturing in my mind as I read. The second happened after our layover, as I didn't quite manage to finish it before arriving in Thailand. Late in the novel, Rain thinks, "My fingerprints were on file from the time I returned to Japan after the war--I was technically a foreigner, and all foreigners in Japan get fingerprinted." Had I not read this at this time, that line would have seemed like a throwaway. Instead, because of our flight delays and airport change, I, too, had just gone through customs and been fingerprinted. It's an eerie detail for a thriller, and I loved it because it's the perfect detail for a crime novel.

I'm glad the John Rain novels are living a new life with Thomas & Mercer, and I look forward to the next one. Like Livia Lone, this was a thrilling read. John Rain is a compelling character, and I'm curious to see where he goes next. It's also clear this book was originally published in 2002. There were a few lines in this novel that made me groan. You've gotten much, much better about writing female characters (thank goodness.) Midori isn't as dynamic of a person as she is a musician. I wanted more from her character. Please don't ever let a (male) character think, "It was like being raped" without some backstory that gives him that purview. That line is inexcusable, and because I've read Livia Lone, I doubt you'd use that simile today (thank goodness.)

All in all, I really liked A Clean Kill in Tokyo. It introduces a fascinating character in John Rain, offers a rich and deep backstory for him, features a dynamic and fast-paced mystery, and I learned a lot about Vietnam, Japan, and U.S.-Asian relations in the last forty years. I'm really looking forward to A Lonely Resurrection and the rest of your books.

Fondly,
Nomadreader

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 276 pages
Publication date: 2002 (reissued/updated August 5, 2014)
Source: purchased

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