In this homage to Trevanian’s cult classic Shibumi (1979), Winslow (Savages, 2010, etc.) fills in some of Trevanian's main character’s back story.
In Shibumi, Nicholai Hel was already an accomplished assassin, called out of retirement to perform one more job. Winslow takes the reader back a few decades to the early 1950s to explain how Hel got into the assassination business in the first place. He picks up the thread after Hel’s three-year stint in an American jail for the murder of his mentor in the chaos of post–World War II Japan. The Americans recognize his unique abilities—including his mastery of several languages and the hoda korosu martial art—and offer him a deal: He can have his freedom and a chance to even the score with those who have mistreated him in prison if he will travel to Beijing under the guise of a French arms dealer and assassinate a Soviet official. After a brief period of training in Western ways with the lovely Solange, for whom Hel develops deep romantic feelings, he travels to Mao’s China to complete his assignment. Things get extremely complicated in the aftermath of the Beijing mission, and suddenly Hel doesn’t know whom to trust. Still operating under his French arms-dealing alias, Hel escapes to Vietnam, where bitter tensions between rival factions are already beginning to erupt in violence. There, he must figure out which side he is on, as he navigates the treacherous political climate of pre-war Vietnam, while looking desperately for a way to reunite with Solange. Fans of Shibumi’s extravagent style will no doubt enjoy Winslow’s contribution to the Hel story, and, just like Trevanian, Winslow imbues the James Bond–esque superspy atmosphere with a deep knowledge of Eastern cultures, including the ancient Japanese game of Go. And as in Shibumi, there is plenty of fun to be had for readers willing to suspend their credulity for a few hundred pages.
Perfect for Shibumi fans and anyone else who likes their espionage over the top.