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14 February 2016

Barry Lancet: Pacific Burn: A Thriller (A Jim Brodie Thriller)

Lancet's cross-cultural thrillers keep getting better
This is #3 in Barry Lancet's series featuring Jim Brodie, born in Japan to American parents, who went to Japanese schools and integrated Japanese society as well as a foreigner can. He has a great expertise in Japanese culture, history, and martial arts and shares his time as a dealer in Japanese art and antiques in San Francisco with running his late father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm.

Brodie is asked by a friend in the SFPD to help out at a murder scene in the Napa Valley to translate for a very frightened eight-year-old Japanese boy who saw his father murdered outside a major cultural centre in Napa. Brodie knows the victim because he is the son of renowned Japanese ceramic artist Ken Nobuki. With the help of a talented police artist, the young child is able to create a realistic sketch of the killer.

A few days later Brodie leaves City Hall with Ken Nobuki when a sniper attacks them from the top of the Asian Art Museum. Nobuki is hit in the head and left in a near-death induced coma in hospital. Then Nobuki's daughter Naomi, a journalist with a long term fixation on the "nuclear mafia" protecting SEPCO the owner of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power station, comes into the killer's sights.

When Brodie travels to Tokyo he finds that he is also targeted by the killer and it becomes clear that there is a contract out on the Tobuki's and on Brodie. It is not clear if the contract has been taken out by the nuclear mafia or if there is a more personal connection. The Japanese assassin, nicknamed the "Steam Walker", has an unblemished record and martial arts skills to overcome even those of Jim Brodie.

This is a fairly short but very fast moving thriller, moving from the US to Japan and showcasing Lancet's deep understanding of Japanese life and culture. I was impressed by the short chapters which increased the pace of the action.

Tokyo Kill was better than the debut novel Japantown and this one goes a step further to enhance Lancet's undoubted skills as a writer of cross-cultural thrillers. It once again centres on many aspects of  Japanese culture and behaviours. My only reservation was that I did get a bit lost with some of the US security connections, plus the need for Brodie to once again to use Japenese mythology to give the tale more authenticity. It was a short, well-written and fast-paced page-turning thriller with a difference. 4.5 stars.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for review.

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