Piano technician Frank Ryan, having fled his hometown in British Columbia after things got too hot there (Beethoven’s Tenth, 2015), finds Tokyo just as dangerous in the aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake.
Most of the pupils Frank gives piano lessons to are no more talented than Mrs. Ogawa, whose life will clearly end before she masters “Clair de Lune.” But a young woman named Akiko is a standout for her native gifts, her quick intelligence, and her shadowy protector Goto, the yakuza she calls her father who’s actually her lover. On their very first meeting, Goto offers Frank, who’s living from one cash-paying lesson to the next, a gig tickling the ivories in the Tom and Mary Jazz Lounge. The dream job, which provides a respectable base salary and hefty tips, seems too good to be true, and of course it is. Soon enough, Frank’s hooked up with Momo, an attractive 30-year-old who works in a Shibuya pastry shop. Momo tells Frank that Goto killed her brother, Ryu, one of the Fukushima Fifty hired by the yakuza to contain the radioactive fallout at the stricken reactor. After she meets Frank at the Fifteen Love Hotel, she begs him to watch for a chance to peek inside Goto’s alligator briefcase, which she’s convinced is filled with ill-gotten cash and revealing papers, like a complete list of the Fukushima Fifty. It all sounds so simple. Thanks to Harvey’s parsimonious plotting and his hero’s laconic voice, it actually is simple.
Even if the hero’s Tokyo fling ends on a decidedly downbeat note, this little prose poem is as pellucid and finely wrought as a haiku.