Author Barry Eisler, who gained the rights back to all of his books, has changed the name of all of his titles that feature his character, John Rain. This, the title of the first book, was changed to “A Clean Kill in Tokyo”. It is the beginning of one of my favorite series featuring a protagonist who is half-American and half-Japanese. As a half-American, half-Japanese myself, I couldn't help but be biased towards liking this character. Also, the story is set in present day Japan, mostly in a neighborhood that I called home for over twenty years – Tokyo.
Meet John Rain, a half-American, half-Japanese hitman for hire based in Tokyo. He specializes in making his targets die as if by natural causes. He doesn't care who or why but he does have some rules of his own. The target must be guilty of the crime he is accused of. The target must not be any women or children, and most important, Rain works alone.
Rain was a former operative in covert operations during the Vietnam War. It is where he learned his current trade. He also continues to study judo at the prestigious Kodokan International Judo Center to keep his body fit, especially necessary in his line of work. His lastest target is a government official. Using his mode of operation, Rain conceives of a way to have the man's pacemaker short-circuit while riding the subway, making it look as if the man suffered a heart attack. While the man is dying, Rain notices a Westerner frisking the man's coat as if in search of something.
With the death of a government bureaucrat, not only do the Japanese police get involved, but the information the man was holding is also wanted by the Yakuza and the CIA. What both groups are after is a disk the man was carrying which would expose the corruption of many other politicians. And he was about to hand over this sensitive information to the press. As Rain was also spotted on the subway through security cameras, the police are searching for him as well. Once Rain delves deeper into what went down on the subway, it leads him to the bureaucrat's daughter, Midori Kawamura, a Julliard-trained jazz pianist.
Rain befriends Midori, who has no idea that he is the man who killed her father. At first he keeps his distance but when he sees intruders enter her home and that her life is in danger, he goes against his own principles and involves himself in saving her. As the mystery deepens, Midori also wonders what it is about John Rain, this man who appears out of nowhere into her life and saves her from thugs breaking into her home.
This is one exciting ride from beginning to end. As you read the story, it makes you feel as if you are in the heart of Shibuya where the action happens. It is fast-paced and very character oriented. The friendship that blossoms between Rain and Midori makes for a romance that's bound to go awry but you can't help hoping that things will work out. The story just sucks you in and leaves you wanting more.~Ernie Hoyt