A former World War II POW goes on a vengeful murder spree only to be hunted by the Japanese soldier who once saved his life, in Littlejohn’s debut novel.
The narrative begins in 1941, two years into World War II, when American soldier Jack Collins is taken prisoner in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan. Like most POW camps, the one that confines Jack is a hellish nightmare, most powerfully underscored by the Bataan Death March, during which innumerable detainees are raped, disemboweled or–mercifully–just beaten within an inch of their lives. It seems Jack’s number is up when he is nearly on the receiving end of a bayonet stabbing. Amazingly, a compassionate Japanese officer, Lt. Kenji Tanaka, deflects the attack, allowing Jack to live and return to America upon emancipation. Forty three years later, Jack descends on Tokyo to exact a bloody revenge on the men who terrorized him and, as the body count rises, he finds himself pursued by an unlikely adversary: Kenji, now a Tokyo police officer. The novel is decidedly less literary than cinematic, but that doesn’t much matter. Littlejohn hinges his narrative effectively and vividly on one of the lesser-pillaged events of World War II and delivers a nail-biting thriller. The setup is a somewhat rickety but, like any book of this genre, the implausibility is eclipsed by the deft employment of pulse-quickening action. This is a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse complicated by the fact that both Jack and Kenji are fully developed, likable characters. With readers rooting for both sides, it becomes impossible to foresee or want an outcome. Littlejohn could let go of some of the loftier literary aspirations that creep in from time to time–especially the superfluous epigraphs–but even they can’t slow this fast-paced, suspenseful effort. Whether the book falters on its own ambition or not, it proves a rewarding read.
A suspenseful thriller equipped with the volatility of a ticking bomb.