6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Another winner from Martin Cruz Smith,
This review is from: December 6: A Novel (Hardcover)
I will always gladly pick up anything new from Martin Cruz Smith, as he has never really disappointed me yet. His Arkady Renko novels (including the classic Gorky Park, and fascinating but convoluted Havana Bay) have gotten plenty of praise, and I also loved Rose. Perhaps more than anything, Smith is known for painstaking research. He developed a wonderful setting for each of his densely-plotted books. Moscow in winter, a North Sea fishing boat, a grimy English mining town, and tropical Havana all come alive in the pages of Martin Cruz Smith novels.
In December 6, he turns his trained eye upon Japan at the outbreak of WW II, and his character Harry Niles will draw inevitable parallels to Bogart's Rick of Casablanca fame. Niles is a nightclub owner as well, and in a society where children aspire at an early age to "die for the emperor" Niles is always reminded that he is an outsider, or a "gaijin", even among a society he loves. He senses war about to break out, has a seat on the proverbial "last plane out", but immerses himself in a ruse designed to try and trick the Japanese authorities into calling off the attack which he believes will doom the empire. We all know the attack takes place, and the outcome (some here have criticized Smith for making his characters so sure of the exact outcome of the war on the day it breaks out), but how it happens still holds your interest throughout the novel.
After reading a Martin Cruz Smith novel, and this one is no exception, you remember the setting, and you vividly remember certain scenes (a flashback to Nanking involving a pivotal conflict with a fanatical general stick in my head), but you remember little about the various twists and turns of the plot. The tea houses, nightclubs and palaces of Tokyo come alive in his descriptions. I was a little disappointed in the ending, as Smith is not a writer who likes to tie up everything with a bow at the end, but I still recommend the book as a great historical glimpse at a fascinating culture swept up in the hysteria of the war. He made me care about the characters, including Harry and his pragmatic mistress Michiko. 5 stars, maybe 4 1/2 if Amazon let me, but a fast-paced and enjoyable read.