Takamura’s challenging, genre-confounding epic offers a sweeping view of contemporary Japan in all its complexity.

LADY JOKER, VOLUME 1

A daring kidnapping-and-extortion plot has deep roots in the aftermath of World War II.

Takamura uses a sensational high-profile crime from 1984 as the foundation for a layered examination of Japan’s current social and economic inequities. In 1947, 40 employees of Kanagawa’s Hinode Beer factory quit their jobs over serious health problems whose origins they traced to the factory. Seiji Okamura, one of them, wrote a lengthy letter explaining the situation. In the ensuing decades, a handful of other people from various walks of life—a pharmacy owner, a police detective, a truck driver, a credit union worker, a lathe operator—experience maladies or observe problems in their loved ones that they blame on the factory. After their common love of horse racing brings them together, their plan evolves slowly over years of sharing personal details and nursing their common grievance against Hinode’s criminality. The first third of the story follows all of the men. Takamura’s decision to make them a socio-economic cross section provides depth and texture when the focus becomes more pointed. Okamura, who's the younger brother of the pharmacist, enters a nursing home in 1990. His death triggers a plan that the men had only discussed as a kind of game. Hinode’s president, Kyosuke Shiroyama, is kidnapped but then released. A more elaborate scheme plays out as a giant chess game, tracked by a colorful police team. The tale ends on a cliffhanger—the resolution will have to wait for Volume 2.

Takamura’s challenging, genre-confounding epic offers a sweeping view of contemporary Japan in all its complexity.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-616-95701-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 77

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

The book isn’t compelling or believable as a thriller, but the author has potential in other directions.

THE HOUSE IN THE PINES

Years after a young woman's sudden death in her best friend’s kitchen, a viral video reopens questions left unanswered.

Still struggling to emerge from the wake of the tragedy she witnessed the summer before she left for college, Maya Edwards has built a life for herself with a nice guy named Dan and has vowed to stop using Klonopin to manage anxiety and insomnia. Then “Girl Dies on Camera” appears on social media. In it, a young woman pitches over dead at a table in a diner in Maya’s hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As Maya sees to her horror, the woman was with Frank Bellamy, an older man/weirdo she dated that terrible senior summer. Frank was present when her best friend, Aubrey West, died the same way as the woman in the video, with no cause ever determined. Maya’s always thought Frank had something to do with it. Now she's sure and takes a trip home to see what she can find out. As a thriller, Reyes’ debut is weak. The suspense is minimal, with no sense that Frank is coming for Maya or that it actually matters whether these crimes are solved. In fact, the main threat to Maya’s well-being is the difficulty of Klonopin withdrawal and the heavy drinking she is doing to get through it, endangering her relationship with Dan, and the most interesting storyline concerns Maya’s mother and father. Brenda Edwards met Jairo Ek Basurto while on a missionary trip in Guatemala; he was murdered at the age of 22 before Brenda even knew she was pregnant. He left behind an uncompleted manuscript which Maya translated around the time she met Frank but then stuffed in a drawer; it turns out to have inspiration for her now. One of the most interesting conversations in the novel is between Maya and her mother, discussing the manuscript and the idea that our souls have a “true home” elsewhere. One would rather read a book about Brenda and Maya and skip Frank and his house in the pines altogether.

The book isn’t compelling or believable as a thriller, but the author has potential in other directions.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-18671-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: today

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more