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Tokyo Year Zero (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) [Paperback]

David Peace
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Sept. 4 2008 --  
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ruins March 16 2012
By Dave and Joe TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Tokyo Year Zero is a love it or hate it kind of book - it has a demanding and unusual style. I found the writing compelling and managed, somewhat miraculously, to get right inside the mind of a man on the edge. If you let the writing do what it wants to do, you will feel the heat, the dirt, the itch; you will smell the streets and the sweat and the heat. I learned about Tokyo just after surrender, but I learned more about what people can and cannot take.
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By NeuroSplicer HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I picked this up at an airport bookstore, browsed through it and though: "Wow! A James Ellroy noir atmosphere in post-WWII Japan - this MUST be the best of both worlds!" Well, it turn out to be more of a disappointment than not...

The prose is a collection of tiresome staccato repetitions. That is not style.
The obsession with bodily functions, sounds and endless fidgeting is insatiable. This is not insightful realism.
The story is not overly original. It does not save the day.

I never abandon a book once started but I have to confess: I was really tempted with this one...
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Format:Paperback
David Peace is the author of the famous Red Riding Quartet, which took as its milieu a hopelessly corrupt police force in Yorkshire, England. His newer novel, Tokyo Year Zero, which is purportedly the beginning of a trilogy, in one book surpasses everything the author achieved in the previous series. Peace uses many of the same techniques (endless repetition, tone poetry, sound effects, pop culture references) that he used in the Quartet, but to much greater effect here. The Tokyo novel is much more focused, its horrors seeming much less calculated and more pointed. I very much look forward to the rest of the Trilogy (the second of which, Occupied City, is also now available), harrowing as this first installment is.

Tokyo Year Zero is based around the real-life case of serial killer Kodaira Yoshio. Unlike the Red Riding Quartet (which audaciously used the case of the Yorkshire Ripper as a red herring to the central story), Tokyo Year Zero very much centers around the hunt for Kodaira and evidence of his crimes. But this is Japan after their defeat and shame in World War II, and everyone seemingly has something to hide, no one is who they say they are. Even the novel's protagonist, Detective Minami, is haunted by his past, and it is revealed that he saw "action" in Jinan in China. Kodaira, Hannibal Lector-like, taunts Minami about their shared history, and even suggests he may have seen him in Jinan. The comparisons of the two men come closer (and more uncomfortable) as the story progresses, and Minami is pushed ever more insistently toward his final extreme action. Minami is like Harold Angel in the film Angel Heart (which is echoed in Minami's cries of "I know who I am!"), who searches for a soulless monster, only to finally realize that he himself is that very monster.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars kafkaesce mystery Sept. 16 2007
By David W. Straight - Published on Amazon.com
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.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent historical police procedural Sept. 11 2007
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
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
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "Creation" of Art Dec 23 2007
By Ladd A. Baumann - Published on Amazon.com
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.
Having read this remarkably similar description taken from a work written in 1949, my opinion of the creative genius of Mr. Peace was somewhat diminished and although I continued to enjoy the novel very much I was left with the doubt that not everything written was a product of his own creative abilities.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark atmosphere of defeat and depression Nov. 30 2007
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
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. As both of Minami's investigations draw to a close, he is forced to confront his own demons, deceptions and potential for self-destruction.

As with his Red Riding Quartet novels, Peace has based TOKYO YEAR ZERO on real-world events --- serial murders depicted here actually occurred. But what is perhaps most spellbinding in this work is the manner in which Peace has infused it with a dark atmosphere of defeat and depression in which the individuals involved still struggle on, even without hope. One can only wonder --- with great anticipation --- what will be next.

--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary study of a man's limits Oct. 13 2008
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tokyo Year Zero is much more than a crime fiction. It is also a depiction of life in post World War II Japan a year after the horror of the bombings. The novel is a bleak, graphic and sometimes disturbing picture of the struggle to survive by the Japanese people. It is a time of "peace with no peace" where death is constant and the "survivors are the losers."

Amidst all the chaos and destruction, the naked remains of a young woman are found stuffed in a closet of a former Navy factory just outside Tokyo. Detective Minami with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and his Murder Squad are called to the scene along with the Kempeitai, the Japanese military police. The Kempeitai find an old Korean man living near the murder scene. He is judged, executed and buried on the spot. Case closed - except two more bodies are found in similar circumstances and once again Detective Minami is called to the scene. Using only pad and pens, no money for uniforms or cars and not allowed to have guns, Minami and his team begin their investigations only to find many more murdered young women of similar circumstances.

A dark subplot weaves throughout this story and is more a mystery than the crimes. Minami's diligence to the case becomes obsession. Always on the verge of starvation, eaten up with lice and fleas, wearing ragged clothes and shoes, he begins to sacrifice what little he has left to pay his "debt to the dead."

Sometimes difficult to follow, David Peace uses a unique style in writing this novel and relies heavily on single Japanese words throughout, however, a dictionary is provided for translation. Peace, a British author, has lived in Tokyo since 1994 and has been an award recipient for his novels from Britain, Germany and France.

This book is extraordinary in its study of a man who has seen too much, lost too much and perhaps, killed too much as a soldier only to be returned home to deal with more death and grief. Tokyo Year Zero is a must read.

Armchair Interviews agrees.
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