Review

Tokyo Year Zero

by David Peace

David Peace is probably best known as the author of The Red
Riding Quartet
, which garnered international praise and
recognition for the British expatriate. Peace, a resident of Tokyo
since 1994, has chosen his adopted city as the setting for a new
trilogy, the first installment of which is TOKYO YEAR ZERO. The
book reads as if Peace had channeled a rambunctious collaboration
involving Dashiell Hammett, William Burroughs and Kenzaburo
Oe.

Peace sets all but a few pages of TOKYO YEAR ZERO on the first
anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. This Tokyo is not
unlike a Hieronymus Bosch painting, with the Four Horsemen of The
Apocalypse --- Pestilence, War, Famine and Death --- running
through the streets at will. When the decomposed bodies of two
women, raped and strangled, are discovered in a Tokyo park,
Detective Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is assigned to
the investigation. It is almost immediately obvious that Minami is
half-mad, serving not only the police department but also a local
crime lord who has risen to ascendancy as the result of the murder
of his mentor. Discerning the identity of the killer/rapist is
accomplished through dogged police work; the problem is that the
fiend's deeds are not limited to two women or, for that matter, to
Tokyo.

Minami's investigation is impeded not only by office politics and
jurisdictional squabbles but also by the unofficial inquiry he is
making at the behest of the local crime lord, one whose trail leads
him back to his own office. At the same time, Minami is balancing
duties and a great deal of guilt between his wife and children and
his mistress. Meanwhile, Tokyo sinks under the weight of its
defeat, the souls of its residents shattered by Japan's defeat and
the failure of their beliefs. As both of Minami's investigations
draw to a close, he is forced to confront his own demons,
deceptions and potential for self-destruction.

As with his Red Riding Quartet novels, Peace has based
TOKYO YEAR ZERO on real-world events --- serial murders depicted
here actually occurred. But what is perhaps most spellbinding in
this work is the manner in which Peace has infused it with a dark
atmosphere of defeat and depression in which the individuals
involved still struggle on, even without hope. One can only
wonder --- with great anticipation --- what will be next.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Tokyo Year Zero
by David Peace

  • Publication Date: August 12, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307276503
  • ISBN-13: 9780307276506