Thriller readers were introduced to Jim Brodie last year in JAPANTOWN. Brodie is immediately noteworthy as one of the more interesting characters in the thriller universe. While he might wish that his primary occupation was that of an antiques dealer in San Francisco, he is also part owner of Brodie Security, a protection and private investigation firm in Tokyo, Japan. Author Barry Lancet knows of what he writes, having spent over a quarter-century living and working in Tokyo. TOKYO KILL, his sophomore effort, demonstrates conclusively that the excellent JAPANTOWN was no fluke; Lancet appears to have many more tales to tell, and his latest is one of the best of them.
While the setting for JAPANTOWN was divided between San Francisco and Tokyo, TOKYO KILL begins in Tokyo, as one might expect, but also takes Brodie to the equally exotic (if you know where to look) setting of Miami. At the beginning of the book, Brodie is visiting Tokyo with his daughter, hoping to combine a vacation with a search on behalf of one of his clients for a rare Japanese painting. He is using his office at Brodie Investigations as a convenience, and nothing more, when a very elderly gentleman forcefully presents himself sans appointment, almost begging to be protected.
"There are any number of high points in TOKYO KILL. A major one is Brodie’s visit to Tokyo’s version of Chinatown, which makes the book worth reading all by itself. The other is Lancet’s presentation of the history of Japanese swords and swordplay..."
The unexpected visitor turns out to be Akira Miura, a Japanese Army veteran who saw combat duty during World War II in China. Miura, only a few years shy of the century mark, is terrified of dying, but not from the attritions of age. Two of his friends from his Army days, and their families, have been murdered recently, and Miura is all but certain that he will be next. Brodie is not entirely sure that there is any validity to Miura’s fears, but nonetheless accepts him as a security client.
However, when those fears are validated in a most dramatic fashion, Brodie doubles the guard on Miura and attempts to determine who is behind the systematic and ritualistic murders. His investigation leads him to call in favors from friends and acquaintances on both sides of the law while taking him into a twisted social labyrinth peopled with Chinese Triad members, Japanese kendo students, and a secret society of killers whose thirst for blood and revenge traverses hundreds of years. Along the way, Brodie acquires --- with some difficulty --- a love interest. But will she ease his considerable burdens, or make things even more dangerous for him?
There are any number of high points in TOKYO KILL. A major one is Brodie’s visit to Tokyo’s version of Chinatown, which makes the book worth reading all by itself. The other is Lancet’s presentation of the history of Japanese swords and swordplay, which seems exhaustive and yet, I would wager, provides an accurate scratch upon the surface of the topic. Include Lancet’s afterword concerning the authenticity of what is included in the main narrative (which is every bit as interesting as the latter), and you have a book worth reading and a series worth starting. And never fear: a third Brodie thriller is on the way.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 26, 2014