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Complication: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Isaac Adamson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A serial killer with a penchant for severed hands. A watch that runs backward and forward – at the same time. An Eastern European gangster known only as Rumplestiltskin. The Nazi invasion of Prague, Soviet-era Czech secret police, 16th century alchemy and black magic – mild-mannered American Lee Holloway never thought any of these would intrude upon his ordinary life.

But that was before he received a mysterious letter from a woman named Vera, a cryptic missive implying Lee’s estranged brother Paul, who disappeared years ago in Prague, was actually murdered in an attempt to steal The Rudolf Complication, a priceless watch commissioned by the eccentric Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, rumored to hold the power of eternal life. When Lee goes to Prague to investigate, his involvement with the enigmatic Vera, as well as the guidance offered from a mysterious travel book, triggers a series of violent and bizarre events that force Lee to confront disturbing truths about his brother as well as himself. Unless Lee can reconstruct the final hours of his brother's life, and separate truth from myth in this haunted city, he might not get out of Prague alive.

Complication is a twisted, mind-bending, contemporary thrill ride– in the spirit of such mind-bending narratives as House of Leaves and Memento.–set in the dark heart of Europe, a place where old ghosts and ancient legends still walk the streets.

Editorial Reviews



“A freshly imagined work, [Complication] boasts clever twists and revelations right up until the end.” —Kirkus

“Adamson’s atmospheric and satisfyingly twisted tale... could easily have collapsed under the weight of its own complexity, but Adamson pulls it off with style and a whopper of a twist.” —Publishers Weekly


"The hip but hysterical book of my dreams–Adamson glides through his punk-noir world like he's channeling Raymond Chandler."
–Baltimore Sun

"This pop romp through the Tokyo of martial arts, yakuza, and legendary geisha has more sly smarts than a Hong Kong gangster shoot-'em-up."
–Publisher's Weekly


“Faux-Chandleresque pomo-picaresque and sort of engagingly, stubbornly goofy, these are novels written by someone young enough to never have thought in terms of “genre” in the first place.” – William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Idoru and Zero History

“Billy Chaka's adventures are as vibrantly hypnotic as the best Japanese anime. Adamson's wild, witty whodunit deftly sends up the genre while providing extreme doses of excitement."
–Publisher's Weekly

"Adamson, as he did in his book Tokyo Suckerpunch, evokes an animated Tokyo-as-Toontown that is simultaneously vivid, vibrant, gaudy and in glorious decline. It's a big adventure, but Adamson's teen rag writer takes it all with a shrug."
–Time Asia

“well-written, observant and funny. Isaac Adamson does a high-wire act, balancing silliness with credibility."
–Asian Review of Books

Chosen for Powell Books "14 Favorites" (Spring 2002)
Chosen as one of NewCity Chicago's Top 5 Books of 2002


"Isaac Adamson paints an ultra-modern Tokyo that contrasts with its enigmatic history like neon against a dark sky. The characters resonate, the mystery engages, and the rich narrative takes us on a vivid tour through a culture that few of us will ever see. You can't ask for more than that from storyteller. "
-Christopher Moore
author of Lamb and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

"[Dreaming Pachinko] blends noir atmosphere with broad satire; Adamson turns what might have been a fairly straightforward mystery into a splendid romp, an offbeat adventure with wacky characters, oddball dialogue, plenty of laughs, and style to spare. This over-the-top, delightfully weird series is well on its way to making the jump from cult favorite to mainstream success."
–Booklist May '01 2003

"Like its predecessors, this third Billy Chaka crime novel is an exuberant mix of urban noir and anime-style action, salted with cheeky humor– Chaka flashes his trademark deadpan, Chandleresque wit and suffers a constant barrage of inventive physical injuries at the hands of both friends and enemies. Adamson sticks close to the hybrid formula he has perfected; his fans will find this a familiar but welcome addition to his oeuvre."
–Publisher's Weekly

"Noir light: charming, funny, satisfying."
–Kirkus Review

"Dreaming Pachinko" is full of vibrant images straight out of Tokyo and characters that are so 3D that your mind's eye will be bursting by the time you finish the last chapter. Every thing from a hotel receptionist with a handle bar mustache nicknamed "The Walrus" to a house that's so postmodern it makes the Cowboy-bebop world Adamson paints more lifelike while still retaining a wonderfully cinematic feel–Adamson's witty commentary and quirky character intermix with classic pulp fiction components to make a punky style all its own. "

"Adamson describes Chaka's Tokyo in ways that make us see the paradox of a city that exists halfway between a thickly tradition-laden past, and a shockingly Neon-Chrome future. This Tokyo is exotic, unfathomable, and decidedly non-Western. It’s almost science fiction, almost pre-Blade Runner–put aside the wit, and the great descriptive voice and you’re still left with a good old fashioned Whodunit. Dreaming Pachinko can be highly recommended to anyone."

"A Dream of a hardboiled noir thriller–Chaka is a hero Generation X should love. Dreaming Pachinko is a fastball right down the middle, exciting and smart, puckish and suspenseful. Adamson should be read on beach blankets and anywhere else discriminating readers lie, sit, stand, hang, or squat."

"…an imaginative and fun and at times very wild ride through modern, formless, neon Tokyo. A great tale."


"With a shifty plot, shadowy settings, oddball characters and dollops of Bunraku lore sprinkled throughout, Kinki Lullaby is unfailingly entertaining.”
–Washington Post

"Anyone who has followed the Billy Chaka series knows that author Adamson's approach to crime fiction is innovative, dark, idiosyncratic and fast-paced. The rapid-fire conclusion of Kinki Lullaby cements Adamson as a name to watch.”
–January Magazine

"Adamson combines noir mystery style with elements of Japanese animation: weird characters, fast-paced plot, quirky humor. Even now, in its fourth book, the series still feels fresh and exciting, and the author's jokes still hit their mark. Billy's the kind of guy they ought to make a movie about–or, at the very least, put in hard covers for a change."

”It's rather like Lost in Translation meets Raymond Chandler and The Big Sleep with Ridley Scott handling the visuals…Adamson manages to capture the pathos and ennui associated with overwhelming urbanization, and the story floats along like some sort of waking dream, a fevered fusion of noir sensibilities and madcap mayhem.”

"I must plead mea culpa to the cardinal sin of judging a book by its cover. Like the covers on Issac Adamson's predecessors, "Tokyo Sucker Punch" and "Hokkaido Popsicle," "Kinki Lullaby" is festooned with garish artwork, and I was forced to overcome a certain initial distaste to purchase and read it. I'm certainly glad I did: The book hums with lively prose that, title aside, won't put readers to sleep.”

About the Author

Isaac Adamson is the author of Tokyo Suckerpunch and other books in the Billy Chaka mystery series. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children. He doesn't own a watch.

Product Details

  • File Size: 781 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1593764324
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (April 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007NJB6FO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,889 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twisted, dark and surprising April 15, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been a big fan of Adamson's BIlly Chaka books and my high hopes for this new novel were not disappointed.

It's a departure from the neon-flooded Tokyo of his earlier novels, to the deep, dark and twisted back-alleys of Prague. And our hero, Lee Holloway, is far less in control that Billy Chaka ever was. The novel follows his descent through a nightmarish sequence of mysterious events that are described with Adamson's typical flourish for fast, dark action. A rich and supple historical background adds to the atmosphere of the story, and there is a jarring twist that makes the reader question many of the previous conclusions about the main character. Like many good books, it leaves the reader wanting more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wascally Wabbit: The Joke's on Us! July 31, 2012
It appears that many of the reviews of this book were written by people who read (and liked) Adamson's Billy Chaka mystery series. I, on the other "hand" (intentional pun), prior to picking up Complication, was totally unfamiliar with Mr. Adamson's fiction.

I loved the first 200 pages of the novel (including the initially confusing "in/out" historical flashbacks to 1984 and 1938). However, in my opinion, the "Kelley/Was-Kelley" sections beginning in Chapter 10 were too over-the-top and unnecessary (or they could have been shortened considerably). And, with all the clues provided by the author, I could see the "surprise" ending coming all the way from the top of Prague's Astronomical Clock Tower (even on a rainy day)!

Like the Rudolf Complication, Adamson simultaneously leads the reader in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions throughout this moderately dark tale. The trouble is, the artifact's mechanisms frequently bind. The biggest problem I had (a little bit of a spoiler here) was the fact that no one (Vera, Hannah, etc) recognized our hero's "true identity." Really?!? (Of course, Lois Lane could never figure out Clark Kent's, either!) In the final chapter, when the Chicago cop references the Elmer Fudd tattoo, I could visualize Isaac Adamson laughing his Bugs Bunny tail off: "Yes, dear reader, you are such a MAROON! You should indeed have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a former Tokyo ex-pat, I too was a huge fan of the Chaka novel series from the beginning. When Isaac mentioned he was working on a novel about Prague a few years ago, I knew it would be worth the wait, and indeed it was -- a different type of protagonist for a different type of city, but the new pairing synchs like clockwork (apologies). A great travelogue for the city of Prague by itself, the unique characters and mystery plot overlaid on this well-textured backdrop make COMPLICATION a must-read for any thriller aficionado.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Bob
This new novel "Complication", easily meets my personal standards to be classified as a "page turner" or one of those few books that I really "just couldn't put down". Wow!

This clever book has all the captivation of the murder - mystery - thriller genre. But being set in Prague, one of few cities that seems is equally up to the challenge of hosting this devious and adventurous narrative, Issac Adamson is also brilliantly able to transport us to anther world and to another time. The main story is accompanied by a wonderful fusion of interwoven tales, past and present, fact and fiction, with superstition and historical truths mixed together skillfully. While reading I often had to ask myself what was real, or at least "could be real". A welcomed case of my own unknown suspension of disbelief.

The vivid details, flavorful writing style, and occasional comical accounts from our lead character as he becomes entangled in a dark and twisted ride to get to the bottom of his brother's disappearance, make this book an intriquing and exciting read.

A contemporary Euro, murder, mystery, heist. Supplemented perfectly by the addition of mystical and sinister co-mingling storylines from Prague's dubious past.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars time emit May 15, 2012
By Brian
Sublime mystery. Kept me riveted. The only complication I had was dodging a bit of work one afternoon to finish it! A novel filled with as many twist and turns as the streets of downtown Prague. Fascinating.

PS. Do stop by Google Maps to see Lee Holloway's journey through Prague [...] (from the author's blog)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete complication -- curiouser and curiouser April 18, 2012
Isaac Adamson starts his latest book off with a refresher course in the definition of the word "complication', which also happens to be the title of the book. It is also a guidepost for the reader, for in this novel, set mostly in Prague, in various points of time, every single definition comes into play.

The main story line has Lee Holloway, a rather unassuming fellow, who, when cleaning out the detritus of his father's estate, finds a letter which indicates that the disappearance of Lee's younger brother Paul, in the Prague floods five years earlier, may have more mystery involved. (Side note: Two years after the death of my mother, I'm still clearing her estate and the detritus of her life. That Lee could dispose of just about everything so easily made me quite jealous.) Lee abandons his job at the Grimley & Dunballer Recovery Solutions, and heads off to meet Vera, who wrote the letter, at The Black Rabbit, a pub in Prague.

From here the tale becomes curiouser and curiouser, and like Alice down the rabbit hole, things are not always what they seem. There's the basic story line of Lee and Vera, which takes more twists and turns than a Gordian knot, Communist era spies and interrogations, Rumpelstiltskin (or a gangster bearing the same name), alchemy, black magic (complete with John Dee and Edward Kelly), and the eve of the Nazi invasion of Prague, all centered around The Rudolf Complication, a fabled timepiece, built for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, which runs both backwards and forwards, and grants eternal life.

It's a lot of threads to keep straight, but somehow it all works without derailing the reader's brain.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really enjoyed this offbeat story. Great setting. Just go with it.
Published 1 month ago by John Heslin
4.0 out of 5 stars spying on a spy
Good almost to the end. Then it runs out of steam. Author has read all the spy masters and tells the reader, in detail.
Published 1 month ago by Alicia Alan
1.0 out of 5 stars Are you kidding me?
I bought this book based on all the rave reviews. It was so disjointed - back and forth in time and geography with different characters that it was almost impossible to follow. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rawhide
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT!?
You'll never see the ending coming. Wow!
Great story. It is so complicated. You have to at least appreciate the work and time that went into weaving such a story so perfectly.
Published 7 months ago by Brianne Means
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking, discussion causing read
Woah! I knew it would be different and it feels like Adamson has discovered an entirely new voice for his newest work. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read
Having devoured all of Isaac Adamson's Billy Chaka novels, all set in Japan, I was worried that Complication, set in Czeckoslovakia, would not measure up. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Stephen J. Millner
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book by Isaac Adamson
I loved all of Isaac Adamson's Billy Chaka novels. Enough so that, after reading the library's copies, I still wanted my own copies to keep. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Katherine R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Complicated, but Worth the Effort!
Isaac Adamson has created a delightful mystery, full of complicated twists. His use of the concepts of palindromes and inclusion of symbolism cause it to border on the mystical. Read more
Published on July 12, 2012 by Ariel I. (Beth)
5.0 out of 5 stars A
Complication is a bit different from Isaac Adamson's previous Billy Chaka series, but like Adamson's former works, Complication places an American protagonist in a foreign city... Read more
Published on May 21, 2012 by Joel
5.0 out of 5 stars Prague Noir
Let me state right off the bat that you may consider this review biased. The author is a friend of mine, and in fact, we made a trailer for the book which you can see by clicking... Read more
Published on May 1, 2012 by A. Ayrom
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