Following the shooting of a visiting Japanese family on the streets of San Francisco's Japantown, Tokyo-raised antiques dealer Jim Brodie dons his other identity—inheritor of his father's PI firm—to investigate the killing. He discovers it may be related to the murder of his wife, Mieko.
The rare kanji, or logographic Japanese character, left at the scene of the family’s execution convinces Brodie that powerful forces were behind the deaths. Hired by a shady Tokyo communications tycoon whose married daughter was among the victims, and also working with San Francisco police, Brodie brings to the case his deep knowledge of Japanese culture—and Japanese self-defense techniques. Tracing the killings back to Japan, he joins former associates of his father who now run the Tokyo office of Brodie Security to penetrate the ultrasecret, superpowerful Soga, a clan of assassins dating back centuries. They don't fool around, coating gun handles and knife blades with a lethal poison and using sophisticated surveillance devices to follow their opponents' every move. After they abduct Brodie's 6-year-old daughter from an FBI safe house, the odds of him getting her back alive are slim. Ultimately, no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. Lancet, who has lived in Japan for more than 25 years, many of them as editor at a Japanese publishing house, draws upon his familiarity with the terrain, local history and Japanese culture to create an East-West adventure that informs as it thrills. A key plot point involving powerful new technology that is up for grabs is underdeveloped, and the novel isn't without its "Now I'm going to kill you" moments. But the intricate plot is skillfully developed, the action never flags and the climax is gripping.
A fresh voice in crime fiction, Lancet successfully imports yakuza fiction to San Francisco while probing its origins in Japanese lore.