Just when you thought kidnappers couldn’t get any dumber.
Promising first-novelist Foss sends two 20ish ex-pat Americans on a descent into Japan’s sexual and criminal underworlds. Jessica Romano is a hostess who’s recently sidelined into providing more intimate companionship for the panting businessmen who are her bread and butter. Chris Ryan, a classic ne’er-do-well, works as a nightclub bouncer and occasionally deals dope on the side. Together with Jessica’s semi-bonehead boyfriend Taro, they hatch a scheme to kidnap Jessica’s current paying lover, Tamotsu, seemingly just your average, dull, very wealthy salaryman. The mismatched three launch their rigorously complex scheme at the Hotel Happy Casanova, knocking out Tamotsu and tossing him into a van, then hauling him off to an old harborside shack where they plan to wait for the money. But given that this is a kidnapping story, and none of the protagonists is what one would call a hardened criminal, things fall apart about as fast as crime-fiction lovers can say “Jim Thompson.” First it develops that Tamotsu is far from just another salaryman, then one of the kidnappers turns out to be dangerously unstable, and it isn’t long before the backstabbing begins and fingers are being lopped off with abandon. This is all strictly genre stuff, with yakuza enforcers straight from central casting and surprise twists as old as Raymond Chandler—but Foss makes it work. He has a wickedly good time detailing how easy it is for debauched Americans to have their way in a country obsessed with them, and his unerring sense of place combined with a careening plot make up for some overly familiar elements.
A brash and devilishly entertaining things-fall-apart scenario.