After the assassination-style murders of two of his friends—a renowned Japanese theater designer and an American production designer for the movies—San Francisco PI Jim Brodie returns to his old Asian haunts to track down the killer.
Sharon Tanaka and Mikey Dillman, the two designers, were murdered backstage during a Kabuki production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. At Sharon's funeral in Tokyo, where Brodie grew up and operates a detective agency, her daughter, Anna, is abducted by a black-outfitted gang and whisked off to North Korea. We learn that Anna is a software genius who devised a top-secret information-gathering program for the National Security Agency. If the North Koreans successfully squeeze her, they will gain access to all manner of American military, political, and security secrets. In what is business as usual for Brodie, he must go up against an unruly collection of thugs and spies, including a ruthless Chinese killer who likes to play elaborate cat-and-mouse games and a Homeland Security heavy out to bust Brodie's chops. This time, however, Brodie has the president and first lady pulling out the stops for him. The intrepid detective is in for some serious hard knocks after he and his taciturn partner, Noda, sneak into North Korea. As usual in a Lancet novel, the action scenes are first-rate—and violent—and the knowledge the author imparts about Asian politics and culture is deep. Brodie's Japanese cop girlfriend and precocious 7-year-old daughter are largely on the sidelines this time, but he has more than enough to do to be distracted from missing them.
Lancet's hero, who likely has more frequent flyer miles than any other fictional PI after four books, is in top form going after a kidnapped security analyst in North Korea. A solid, consistently smart thriller.