I thought this was a great read, though not quite worth five stars. A reviewer below describes the writing style as poor, but I disagree--I think Lee writes very well, very efficiently, without getting in the way of a story that kept me interested at all times. Having read his earlier story collection, Yellow, which is full of surprising characters and situations (and just as well written), I was somewhat taken aback here by the familiar "mystery" storyline. The plot felt a little mechanical, but for the most part, the mystery did keep me going, and the bringing-together of many disparate characters near the end was smooth and convincing.
I also thought most of the characters were fascinating people. The bumbling Japanese detective was especially compelling, a combination of TV's Columbo and Monk whose essential honesty and humanity wins out in the end. The identity issues, and the success some characters have at escaping their former identities and growing into more appropriate or comfortable ones, were also convincing, even inspiring. A reviewer below finds the setting confusing--why 1980 instead of now? Well for one thing, the Iranian hostage crisis was dragging on and on at that time. The idea of a "hostage" symbolizes the identity struggles of many of the characters.
The many details about Tokyo are also fascinating, though at times the piling up of "quirky Japan" examples ("weird" sex bars and love hotels, fetishistic Japanese men, bizzare TV shows, etc.) got to be a bit much. Those able to direct the Western gaze toward Japan should give it credit for more than its "weirdness," which people in the West already tend to know about. Fortunately, the multidimensional Japanese characters offered by Lee balance out those times where he pauses for yet another cultural oddity. Finally, the description of other details of Japanese behavior and thought, such as an underlying expectation that life will consist mostly of sadness, also help to give a fuller sense of Japan. So I think readers should be careful about accepting the novel's accuracy in this regard. As Lee says in an appended author's note, "this novel should not be considered an accurate representation of Japan. Dramatic licenses were freely taken." Overall, a gripping book that I very much recommend.