From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in 1948 and based on a Japanese murder case, Peace's second novel in his Tokyo trilogy (after Tokyo Year Zero
) is a tour de force. One afternoon, just after closing, a man posing as a health official arrives at a Tokyo bank. He gets the bank's employees to ingest poison by pretending to inoculate them against dysentery, then escapes with the bank's money. In Roshomon
fashion, a number of disparate characters, including Murray Thompson, an American army doctor who's convinced the Japanese are lying about bioweapons experimentation, offer dramatically different perspectives on a horrific crime that claims 12 lives. By presenting these points of view through newspaper articles, police reports, and letters to a faraway spouse, Peace humanizes his characters and provides subtle insights into how they interpret the facts of the mass murder. This literary thriller will more than satisfy readers with a taste for ambiguity. (Feb.)
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*Starred Review* In January 1948, in occupied Tokyo, a bizarre bank robbery accomplished by convincing every bank employee to take a preventive medication against dysentery left 12 dead and 4 gravely ill. The crime is the impetus for a Rashomon-like retelling of the event by deceased victims, survivors, police, a journalist, a member of the American occupation force, a Japanese soldier turned war criminal turned gangster turned businessman, and others. Their stories comprise tales of war, war crimes, government treacheries, suffering, despair, and madness. A survivor feels terribly guilt for having survived both the poisoning and the war, which killed almost everyone she knew. A journalist, anxious to scoop competitors, poses as a doctor to get to a survivor and ultimately falls in love with her. A police detective goes mad from his hatred of the American occupiers. The reality of a massive city literally reduced to ashes by fire bombing, the barbarities of Japanese biological warfare experiments that went unpunished in war-crimes tribunals, and the simple idea that all men are guilty, are guilty of something, underlies every tale. Occupied City is a stunning—and stunningly challenging—novel, a product of extensive historical research, remarkable imagination, and deep insight. It is certainly among the best books of the new year. --Thomas Gaughan