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Tokyo Year Zero Paperback – August 12, 2008

2.9 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Tokyo Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. British author Peace (GB84, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction) bases this riveting novel on a real-life serial-killer case in post-WWII Japan. When the nude body of a young woman turns up in a local park, Inspector Minami of the Tokyo police and his squad of detectives investigate. At the crime scene, Minami finds another woman's body nearby and begins to suspect there will be more to come. Minami, married and a father of two, is smart, tenacious and experienced; he's also addicted to sedatives, keeps a mistress, is in the pocket of a local crime lord and not above sampling the wares of prostitutes he encounters while roaming the city at night. Tokyo has been heavily damaged by Allied bombing, the populace is starving, the occupying victors are overbearing and brutal; for the Japanese, there's only an unrelenting struggle to stay alive in a nightmare world. Peace, whose complex style feels like a cross between Haruki Murakami and James Ellroy, delivers an expressionistic portrait of a harrowing, devastated time and place. 50,000 first printing. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Part historical stunner, part Kurosawa crime film, an original all the way. David Peace's depiction of a war-torn metropolis both crumbling and ascendant is peerless, and the story itself is beautifully wrought.” —James Ellroy“Brilliant, perplexing, claustrophobic. . . . Exhilarating.” —The New York Times Book Review“The big post-war Japan novel, a fierce marriage of mood and narrative drive. David Peace continues to polish and advance his particular brand of literary crime fiction.” —George Pelecanos“Once this hellish locomotive of a book hooks onto its tracks it becomes difficult to stop.” —San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307276503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307276506
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A strange but effective mystery set in early post-war Tokyo, this novel always seems a bit off-balance. There are murders, there is a police investigation (of sorts), but the primary interest is the portrayal of Japan under the Occupation forces and the desperation of day-to-day life in Tokyo.

You will not get a feeling about being comfortable knowing what's going on. Wheels within wheels, the police at all levels work clandestinely with the criminal gangs, and the police at all levels often seem to be working at cross-purposes to each other. Only the top-level police have access to automobiles, and it is odd to see the day starting with the sergeant barking "Bow!" and everyone bows deeply to their superiors.

When you finish the book, there's no sense of satisfaction--but this dark and disturbing work makes you feel as if you've been given a glimpse of hell--rather like Dante's Inferno. If you want a good, more conventional Japanese police novel, try Matsumoto's Points and Lines. If you want the classic police procedural, try Freeman Wills Croft's series. Tokyo Year Zero is unconventional, unsettling, and harrowing--and effective.
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Format: Hardcover
In the summer of1946 Tokyo, the ravages of the war permeate every aspect of life in the battered city. One year to the date of the surrender, two female corpses are found in Shiba Park. Both were rape victims before being strangled.

Police Detective Minami leads the official investigation into the homicides. As he struggles with a drug addiction that helps him forget his ignominious past during the Chinese Occupation, Minami owes his allegiance to a drug lord who feeds his habit. Still he wants to solve this particular brutal case so in spite of a lack of running water, he is out seeking clues amidst the ruins of the city; that is when he is not with his mistress. When more dead females surface; each raped before being strangled, Minami knows he must concentrate on uncovering the identity of a serial killer even if he believes the victims deserve what they get as these prostitutes know the risk of picking up a customer.

TOKYO YEAR ZERO is going to be considered one of the best historical police procedural of the year. The investigation is top rate and the depressing Minami is a fascinating lead character who readers will dislike once they learn he ignores his starving family for his drug needs and his mistress. However, with the American occupation led by the invisible emperor with no clothes and MacArthur occupying a country in ruins with only a thriving black market efficiently run by criminals, Japan especially Tokyo owns this dark whodunit.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
Tokyo Year Zero is a unique book written in a unique style. I enjoyed it very much. I am a frequent visitor to Tokyo and so I particularly enjoyed the ability of the author to integrate history and physical Tokyo into his novel. The author's biography says he now lives in Tokyo and to my observation this has allowed him to write a novel of Tokyo with accuracy and atmosphere. However, my enjoyment of the novel was somewhat diminished when I read pages 244-246.
Apparently, Mr. Peace in preparing to write his novel took the time, as any good author should, to read what others have written about Tokyo. In particular, Tokyo Stories edited by Lawrence Roberts. In that collection of literary short stories about Tokyo you will find on page 122 the short story The Old Part of Town by Hayashi Fumiko. In Hayashi's short story a young woman in the ruins of Tokyo after the war (sound familiar?) is looking for a place to sell her tea which she is peddling to survive. She comes to a place where, as Hayashi describes it, has piles of rusting iron, a shack with a glass door, and a man with a sweat cloth tied on his head. Inside the shack she finds that there is one stool and a postcard tacked to the wall. The man tells her about his wartime experiences in Siberia where he was interned in Mulchi near the Amur Riveer.
Turning now to Tokyo Year Zero, at page 244 Peace writes that Inspector Minami comes to a lot with a huge pile of rusty iron, and a cabin with a glass door. The worker living in the cabin has a handkerchief tied around his head and in the cabin there is a single stool and a postcard tacked to the wall. The man tells Inspector Minami that his son is interned in Siberia at Mulchi on the Amur River.
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Format: Hardcover
David Peace is probably best known as the author of The Red Riding Quartet, which garnered international praise and recognition for the British expatriate. Peace, a resident of Tokyo since 1994, has chosen his adopted city as the setting for a new trilogy, the first installment of which is TOKYO YEAR ZERO. The book reads as if Peace had channeled a rambunctious collaboration involving Dashiell Hammett, William Burroughs and Kenzaburo Oe.

Peace sets all but a few pages of TOKYO YEAR ZERO on the first anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. This Tokyo is not unlike a Hieronymus Bosch painting, with the Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse --- Pestilence, War, Famine and Death --- running through the streets at will. When the decomposed bodies of two women, raped and strangled, are discovered in a Tokyo park, Detective Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is assigned to the investigation. It is almost immediately obvious that Minami is half-mad, serving not only the police department but also a local crime lord who has risen to ascendancy as the result of the murder of his mentor. Discerning the identity of the killer/rapist is accomplished through dogged police work; the problem is that the fiend's deeds are not limited to two women or, for that matter, to Tokyo.

Minami's investigation is impeded not only by office politics and jurisdictional squabbles but also by the unofficial inquiry he is making at the behest of the local crime lord, one whose trail leads him back to his own office. At the same time, Minami is balancing duties and a great deal of guilt between his wife and children and his mistress. Meanwhile, Tokyo sinks under the weight of its defeat, the souls of its residents shattered by Japan's defeat and the failure of their beliefs.
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