A fast-moving and well-researched debut thriller filled with intrigue, conspiracies, and Japanese culture.
American Max Travers teaches English in Tokyo, working for an unpleasant woman named Yoko. Her father, Mr. Murayama, possesses an old diary written by Prince Takeda during World War II, and the yakuza will gladly kill to get their hands on it. If the entries in the diary are true and become public, “the effect on Japan would be terrible and the royal family would be ruined.” A former Japanese diplomat is murdered, and then the killings continue. Meanwhile, Max tries to quit his job and go back to the U.S., but for nefarious reasons, Yoko withholds his passport. When he breaks into an office in an attempt to retrieve it, the yakuza are already there, looking for the diary—which Max somehow winds up with, putting himself and his girlfriend, Tomoko, in grave danger. He's “unable to shake the feeling that both his and Tomoko’s lives, their fate, had somehow become fused with that of Prince Takeda himself.” Like it or not, it seems the accursed diary will become Max’s destiny. In a Dan Brown–ian touch, an anagram of an American character’s name is a key plot detail. Max and Tomoko are a likable duo facing plausible, scary situations that will keep readers turning the pages. The plot is filled with action, the details are rich and colorful—not many stories include a Shinto priest who owns a video game company—and the writing is by and large decent. The ending leaves enough uncertainty to invite a sequel.
An enjoyable first novel that never bogs down as it races to a satisfying finish. Bring on the next installment of Max Travers adventures, please.