Horrendous murders, mysterious histories set many decades ago, cruel fights of the Tokyo underground. Detective Jim Brodie is on a strange mission by his Japanese ex-WWII official in China to identify the authors of strange murders and eventually protect his life. The second in the series - although you can read it without a necessary background of the stories from the first installment - Tokyo Kills delves into the complex layers of Japanese life.
The issues pertaining to WWII actions of the Japanese Army in the neighbouring Asian states, particularly China, are not an easy topic to deal with both in daily life and literature, equally from the political and diplomatic point of view. Barry Lancet has the detailed necessary knowledge and writing skills to write about it in a very diplomatic yet entincing way, although I was able to feel the choice of a very cold account of events, as told by one of the characters. The sensitive stories were confined to the pure narrative, but there is still the background which completely shocks you, especially if you are not familiar with the context and various historical and documentary accounts.
But history is only the story background, as the book involves much more, and has so many interesting twists that 50 pages before the end of it I was still not aware how it will end. The local knowledge also allows to play skillfully with various Asian underground references, such as the differences in operations between the Chinese triads and the Japanese Yakuza, and their dance for influence. The only thing in the story which I've found hilarious and inadequate was the 'Chinese spy', with whom Brodie has a dialogue which is too stiff and mostly uninspired.
Otherwise, the book is a good recommendation for Asian thriller stories, translated through the European literary sensitivities though.
Rating: 4 stars