Simon & Shuster, $25.00, 398 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-9169-6
Have you ever noticed that we humans tend to seek the company of our own kind? That we form affinity groups of like-minded persons and stay within, or at least in proximity to it? This is especially true of recent immigrants and non-English speakers, so much so in fact, that certain areas of major cities are known by sobriquets like ” Little Italy, Spanish Harlem and New Odessa.” Which brings us to the subject of this week’s Mysterious Book Report.
Japantown, by Barry Lancet begins in the Japanese section of San Francisco, at a crime scene where five tourists from Japan have been killed in a coordinated attack by a pair of machine-gun wielding killers. The slaughter appears to be premeditated, perfectly planned and carried out. The killers have disappeared into the night, leaving only a single clue: a handwritten, obscure Japanese character called a Kanji on blood soaked rice paper. Baffled, the SFPD calls upon part-time private detective and full-time San Francisco Japanese art dealer Jim Brodie for help. Brodie has strong ties to Japan. He speaks the language, makes frequent trips there and is the half owner of a security agency started by his father that’s headquartered in Tokyo. The Kanji is enigmatic, proving to be untranslatable by either Japanese speakers or university professors. Brodie however, has seen it before. An identical kanji was found at the scene of a tragic house fire which killed Brodie’s wife, her father and her mother . . . a fire believed to be accidental until now. Using all the resources available to him in both the United States and Japan, Brodie tries to solve the unsolvable . . . a perfect crime. The deeper he digs, the greater the risks until Brodie and his six year old daughter Jenny, his businesses in San Francisco and Tokyo, his friends and associates, are all at risk of dying at the hands of a secret, 300 year old criminal organization with assets in the highest offices of business and government. It’s a novel that becomes more exciting with every page. I loved this beautifully executed debut and look forward to the next installment of the Brodie series from the pen of Barry Lancet. Don’t miss this one. It’s awesome!