The fifth installment in an imaginative martial arts thriller series.
Connecticut-based anthropologist, black belt and prolific author Donohue (Kage: The Shadow, 2011, etc.) is a martial arts expert who has parlayed his acumen into a succession of popular crime dramas featuring heroic defender Connor Burke. This time around, Burke takes time out from his intensive training regimen with aging sensei Yamashita Rinsuke to be propositioned by the powerful and elite Japanese Miyazaki family. Under the guise that Yamashita has somehow become indebted to them, the Miyazakis commission Burke, renowned for his work with the Kunaicho (“the Imperial Household Agency”) in aiding the Japanese royal family, to locate and return their defiant, nymphomaniacal 23-year-old daughter, Chie, who has gone missing. Initially, Chie’s father attributed his daughter’s absence from school and home to restless “daughter-gone-wild-in-grad-school” syndrome; family honor and confidentiality prevented them from taking more drastic and conventional actions to find her. But Chie’s sketchy, low-life boyfriend, Lim, and her history of drug use has everyone believing her disappearance could be a malicious kidnapping. Against his brother’s better judgment, Burke embarks on a treacherous investigation with a Brooklyn mobster’s assistant, Alejandro (who also seems to disappear midway through the novel). Soon, the investigation is bolstered by a precious book containing Yamashita’s expansive personal history. Chapters featuring an onslaught of Taser-armed skilled torturers and tactical villains unfold as the tension mounts and Burke’s progress in finding Chie is blocked at every pass. His saving grace comes after drawing on the powerful wisdom obtained throughout his tutelage by Yamashita. Once tough-talking Chie enters the fray, the plot heats up, and Donohue’s talent for serpentine, fast-paced action erupts. Throughout the book’s first half, Donohue cleverly intertwines the story with opinions and interesting perspectives on Eastern Zen philosophy and the rich history of martial arts, a direction that not only expands the breadth of the mystery, but also serves to enlighten his audience throughout this vivid, exhilarating ride.
Multilayered and satisfying, a welcome and well-developed addition to an accomplished martial arts series.