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Japantown (Jim Brodie Series #1)
     

Japantown (Jim Brodie Series #1)

by Barry Lancet
 

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“Best of Debut of the Year” —Suspense Magazine
WINNER of the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel
Optioned for TV by J.J. Abrams & Warner Bros.

In this “sophisticated international thriller” (The New York Times Book Review), an American antiques-dealer-turned-reluctant-private-eye must use his knowledge

Overview

“Best of Debut of the Year” —Suspense Magazine
WINNER of the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel
Optioned for TV by J.J. Abrams & Warner Bros.

In this “sophisticated international thriller” (The New York Times Book Review), an American antiques-dealer-turned-reluctant-private-eye must use his knowledge of Japanese culture to unravel a major murder in San Francisco—before he and his daughter become targets themselves.

San Francisco antiques dealer Jim Brodie receives a call one night from a friend at the SFPD: an entire family has been senselessly gunned down in the Japantown neighborhood of the bustling city. As an American born and raised in Japan and part-owner of his father’s Tokyo private investigation firm, Brodie has advised the local police in the past, but the near-perfect murders in Japantown are like nothing he’s ever encountered.

With his array of Asian contacts and fluency in Japanese, Brodie follows leads gathered from a shadow powerbroker, a renegade Japanese detective, and the elusive tycoon at the center of the Japantown murders along a trail that takes him from the crime scene in California to terrorized citizens and informants in Japan. Step by step, he unravels a web of intrigue stretching back centuries and unearths a deadly secret that threatens not only his life but also the lives of his entire circle of family and friends. “Readers will want to see more of the talented Jim Brodie, with his expertise in Japanese culture, history, and martial arts” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
…Lancet brings an impressive breadth of knowledge to the historical aspects of the mystery and a sharp sense of immediacy to its action.
Publishers Weekly
Lancet successfully places a PI in an international thriller plot in his highly entertaining debut. Five members of the Nakamura family have been gunned down at a pedestrian mall in San Francisco’s Japantown. SFPD Lt. Frank Renna asks Jim Brodie, an antiques dealer who inherited his father’s Tokyo-based private investigation firm, to decipher the one clue found at the crime scene: a single kanji, or Japanese letter, written on a piece of paper. Jim saw that same letter before—at the house fire in which his wife, Mieko, perished. Tokyo communications mogul Katsuyuki Hara hires Jim to find out who murdered his eldest daughter and the four other family members, including two children. The PI gets on the trail of the ruthless Soga, a private army for hire that’s responsible for unsolved high-profile deaths worldwide. The case becomes personal when the Soga kidnap Jim’s six-year-old daughter, Jenny. Readers will want to see more of the talented Jim, with his expertise in Japanese culture, history, and martial arts. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)
Larry Bond
“Japantown is an expertly written story with vivid, complex characters. The mystery holds surprises until the very end.”
From the Publisher
“From gritty San Francisco to exotic Tokyo, Japantown is a whip-smart, razor-fast ride, and entertaining from cover to cover.”

“An elegantly brutal thriller, Japantown is reminiscent of classic Daniel Silva and Barry Eisler. Lancet's unique background bleeds authenticity into the story. This is a bold and exciting debut. Don't miss it.”

“This is a terrific debut from a talented and very promising writer. Nimbly written and atmospheric, Lancet brings San Francisco to life in all its layers, focusing on the mysteries of the Japanese-American people. He depicts a rich mixture of art and violence, the past and the present, east and west.”

“Get ready for an action-packed, tension-filled escape with Barry Lancet’s thriller worthy of Elmore Leonard. The trail of crime races from Tokyo to New York and returns inevitably to Japantown, six square blocks in San Francisco, where antiques dealer and private eye Jim Brodie walks a dangerous line in the shadow world of clashing cultures.”

Japantown is an expertly written story with vivid, complex characters. The mystery holds surprises until the very end.”

Kirkus Reviews
Following the shooting of a visiting Japanese family on the streets of San Francisco's Japantown, Tokyo-raised antiques dealer Jim Brodie dons his other identity--inheritor of his father's PI firm--to investigate the killing. He discovers it may be related to the murder of his wife, Mieko. The rare kanji, or logographic Japanese character, left at the scene of the family's execution convinces Brodie that powerful forces were behind the deaths. Hired by a shady Tokyo communications tycoon whose married daughter was among the victims, and also working with San Francisco police, Brodie brings to the case his deep knowledge of Japanese culture--and Japanese self-defense techniques. Tracing the killings back to Japan, he joins former associates of his father who now run the Tokyo office of Brodie Security to penetrate the ultra secret, super powerful Soga, a clan of assassins dating back centuries. They don't fool around, coating gun handles and knife blades with a lethal poison and using sophisticated surveillance devices to follow their opponents' every move. After they abduct Brodie's 6-year-old daughter from an FBI safe house, the odds of him getting her back alive are slim. Ultimately, no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. Lancet, who has lived in Japan for more than 25 years, many of them as editor at a Japanese publishing house, draws upon his familiarity with the terrain, local history and Japanese culture to create an East-West adventure that informs as it thrills. A key plot point involving powerful new technology that is up for grabs is under-developed, and the novel isn't without its "Now I'm going to kill you" moments. But the intricate plot is skillfully developed, the action never flags and the climax is gripping. A fresh voice in crime fiction, Lancet successfully imports yakuza fiction to San Francisco while probing its origins in Japanese lore.
New York Times bestselling author Larry Bond
Japantown is an expertly written story with vivid, complex characters. The mystery holds surprises until the very end.”
Suspense Magazine
“One of the hottest debut authors of 2013 . . . [a] taut international thriller that races from San Francisco to Lancet’s adopted hometown of Tokyo. . . . J.J. Abrams of ‘Lost’ fame recently bought the TV rights to the book.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“In 1992 the Japanese bubble economy burst, but not before spawning Michael Crichton’s archetypal thriller Rising Sun, which looms large in the background of Japantown, author Barry Lancet’s first work of fiction. Lancet’s fluency in the Japanese language, extensive knowledge of, and empathy with, the culture from which it is inseparable, and gift for creating likable (as well as despicable) characters add depth and authenticity to this captivating thriller that other non-Japanese authors rarely attain. . . . Far from a mere mouthpiece for multiculturalism, [Lancet’s hero, Brodie] comes across as a complex figure with a genuine personal history, at once blessed with extensive expertise in his chosen fields and dogged by the kind of emotional conflicts common to the human experience. . . . Although I have studied Japanese for 30 years, I was kept guessing until the very end. Those with little knowledge of things Japanese will nonetheless be kept in suspense by the twists and turns of the underlying story — and edified and entertained along the way.”
New York Times bestselling author of The Informationist - Taylor Stevens
“From gritty San Francisco to exotic Tokyo, Japantown is a whip-smart, razor-fast ride, and entertaining from cover to cover.”
New York Times bestselling author of Edge of Black - J.T. Ellison
“An elegantly brutal thriller, Japantown is reminiscent of classic Daniel Silva and Barry Eisler. Lancet's unique background bleeds authenticity into the story. This is a bold and exciting debut. Don't miss it.”
SFExaminer.com
“The debut novel by a 25-year resident of Japan is a zippy page-turner set in San Francisco's Japantown, Tokyo and a remote Japanese village.”
Sciencethriller.com
“Sometimes I come across a book that simply is too good not to share, even if it lies outside my technophile niche . . . A distinctive and well-written debut novel with a fresh take on the international thriller genre.”
Japan Times - Mark Schreiber
“Is the 21st century ready for multinational ninja MBAs who hack computer networks instead of flinging poisoned darts, and who surgically take out business rivals instead of whacking feudal lords? More important, does Jim Brodie have the brains and fortitude to save his young daughter and himself from these cold-blooded modern-day predators? Read Japantown and you’ll find out.”
author of In the President’s Secret Service and The Secrets of the FBI - Ronald Kessler
“Get ready for an action-packed, tension-filled escape with Barry Lancet’s thriller worthy of Elmore Leonard. The trail of crime races from Tokyo to New York and returns inevitably to Japantown, six square blocks in San Francisco, where antiques dealer and private eye Jim Brodie walks a dangerous line in the shadow world of clashing cultures.”
Booklist
“A solid mystery with a memorable protagonist, the book captures our interest from the first page.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Lancet, an American who has lived and worked in Japan for decades . . . commands a much stronger knowledge of the culture than his predecessors and . . . provide[s] a deep and easy familiarity with the dilemmas that his protagonist faces trying to bridge the gap between two vastly different cultures. . . . Strong writing and deep passion for the material carry the story and characters far enough to hold the interest of any reader who enjoys this sort of story.”
The New York Times Book Review
“[A] sophisticated international thriller . . . Having lived and worked in Japan for more than 25 years, Lancet brings an impressive breadth of knowledge to the historical aspects of the mystery and a sharp sense of immediacy to its action.”
Bookreporter.com
“Engrossing . . . Japantown is full of action and surprises . . . an extremely impressive debut that is almost sure to be short-listed for any number of awards next year. Pick it up now to see what all the excitement will be about.”
San Francisco Magazine
"The first book in what will likely be a long and successful series."
California Bookwatch
“A fine thriller filled with satisfying mystery, solid characterization and high drama.”
New York Times Bestselling Author of The Famous and the Dead, and The Jaguar - T. Jefferson Parker
“This is a terrific debut from a talented and very promising writer. Nimbly written and atmospheric, Lancet brings San Francisco to life in all its layers, focusing on the mysteries of the Japanese-American people. He depicts a rich mixture of art and violence, the past and the present, east and west.”
Library Journal
Is there such a thing as calligraphy with psychological baggage? Lancet's engrossing debut thriller tackles that original question. Jim Brodie, antiques dealer and part-time PI, spent his formative years in Japan and is well versed in its language and culture. When a prominent Japanese family is slain in his hometown of San Francisco, Brodie is asked to assist the police. While surveying the murder scene, he is horrified to spot a unique kanji (a set of characters in the Japanese writing system) on a scrap of paper. It is the exact kanji that was found at the scene of his wife's murder many years ago. Spurred by a sense of revenge and closure, Brodie embarks on a whirlwind hunt for the writer of said kanji and an end to his aching sorrow. VERDICT Lancet has a gift for pacing and keeps the reader engaged and guessing till the very end. The relationship between Brodie and his young daughter does not always ring true, but it is a minor distraction in this solid thriller. This novel will prove popular with fans of mysteries involving foreign culture and history.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451691696
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Series:
Jim Brodie Series , #1
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

Japantown

CHAPTER 1


SAN FRANCISCO

TWO shades of red darkened the Japantown concourse by the time I arrived. One belonged to a little girl’s scarlet party dress. The other was liquid and far too human. City officials would evince a third shade once reports of the carnage hit the airwaves.

But long before the news jockeys began grappling with the Japantown slaughter, the problem landed on my doorstep.

Minutes after receiving an urgent summons, I was charging down Fillmore in a classic maroon Cutlass convertible. Before the midnight call had interrupted my evening’s work, I’d been repairing an eighteenth-century Japanese tea bowl, a skill I’d picked up in the pottery town of Shigaraki, an hour outside of Kyoto. Now, even with the top down on the Cutlass, I could still smell the stringent lacquer used to fix the thumbnail-size chip on the bowl’s rim. Once the lacquer dried I’d apply the final flourish—a trail of liquid gold powder. A repair was still a repair, but if done right, it restored a piece’s dignity.

I swung left on Post hard enough to leave rubber and cut off two gangbangers tooling uphill in a flame-red Mazda Miata. A crisp night breeze swirled around my face and hair and wiped away every last trace of drowsiness. The gangbangers had their top down, too, apparently the better to scope out a clear shot.

They slithered in behind me, swearing in booming voices I could hear over the screech of their tires, and in my rearview mirror, angry fists shot into the air as the sleek sports car crept up on my bumper.

A pistol appeared next, followed by a man’s torso, both etched in ominous shadow against the night sky. Then the driver caught sight of a police blockade up ahead, slammed on his brakes, and snaked into a U-turn. The drastic change in direction flung the shooter against the side of the car, and nearly into the street. Arms flailing, he just managed to grab the frame of the windshield and drop back into the Miata’s cushioned bucket seat as the car peeled away with a throttled roar of frustration.

I knew the feeling. If I hadn’t received a personal invitation, I’d have done the same. But I had no choice. A marker had been called in.

When the phone rang, I’d peeled off the rubber gloves, careful not to let remnants of the poisonous lacquer touch my skin. With my days filled to overflowing at the shop, I tackled repairs in the darker hours, after putting my daughter to bed. Tonight it was the tea bowl.

Lieutenant Frank Renna of the San Francisco Police Department wasted no time on pleasantries. “I need a favor. A big one this time.”

I glanced at the pale green digits of the clock. 12:24 a.m. “And a fine time it is.”

On the other end of the line, Renna gave a grunt of apology. “You’ll get your usual consultant fee. Might not be enough, though.”

“I’ll survive.”

“Keep thinking that way. I need you to come look at something. You got a baseball cap?”

“Yeah.”

“Wear it low over your eyes. Cap, sneakers, jeans. Then get down here asap.”

“Down where?”

“Japantown. The outdoor mall.”

I was silent, knowing that except for a couple of bars and the Denny’s coffee shop, J-town was bottled up for the night.

Renna said, “How soon can you get here?”

“Fifteen minutes if I break a few laws.”

“Make it ten.”

Nine minutes on, I found myself speeding toward the blockade, an impromptu cluster of rolling police steel parked haphazardly across the road where the pedestrian shopping mall on Buchanan came to an abrupt end at Post. Beyond the barricade I spotted a coroner’s wagon and three ambulances, doors flung open, interiors dark and cavernous.

A hundred yards short of the barrier, I eased over in front of the Japan Center and cut the engine. I slid off tucked black leather seats and walked toward the commotion. Grim and unshaven, Frank Renna separated himself from a crowd of local badges and intercepted me halfway. Behind his approaching bulk, the rotating red and blue lights of the prowl cars silhouetted him against the night.

“The whole force out here tonight?”

He scowled. “Could be.”

I was the go-to guy for the SFPD on anything Japanese—even though my name is Jim Brodie, I’m six-one, a hundred-ninety pounds, and have black hair and blue eyes. And I’m Caucasian.

The connection? I’d spent the first seventeen years of my life in Tokyo, where I was born to a rugged Irish-American father, who lived and breathed law enforcement, and a more delicate American mother, who loved art. Money was tight, so I attended local schools instead of one of the exorbitant American international facilities and absorbed the language and culture like a sponge.

Along the way, I picked up karate and judo from two of the top masters in the Japanese capital, and thanks to my mother got my first peek at the fascinating world of Japanese art.

What drew my parents to the far side of the Pacific was the U.S. Army. Jake, my father, headed up a squad of MPs in charge of security for Western Tokyo, then worked for the LAPD. But he took orders badly so he eventually returned to Tokyo, where he set up the city’s first American-style PI/security firm.

He began grooming me for a position at Brodie Security a week after my twelfth birthday. I accompanied him and other detectives on interviews, stakeouts, and research trips as an observer. In the office I pored over old files when I wasn’t listening to the staff speculate about cases involving blackmail, adultery, kidnapping, and more. Their conversations were gritty and real and a thousand times better than a night out at a Roppongi disco or an ultracheap Harajuku izakaya, though I managed to work those in too, four years later, with a fake ID.

Three weeks after my seventeenth birthday, Shig Narazaki—Jake’s partner and “Uncle Shig” when he visited our home for dinner—took me on a “watch-and-see.” It was a simple information-gathering stakeout for an extortion case involving the vice president of a major electronics firm and a local gang of yakuza wannabes. Japanese mafia. Just a recon trip. No action, no approach. I’d been on dozens like it.

We sat for an hour in a car tucked up an alley watching a neighborhood yakitori shop long closed for the night.

“I don’t know,” Shig said. “I may have the wrong place.” And he left to take a look.

He did one circuit around the restaurant and was heading back when a street thug sprang from a side door and clubbed him with a Japanese fighting stick while the rest of the gang escaped out another exit.

Shig collapsed and I leapt from the car and yelled. The attacker zeroed in on me, glaring and cocking the stick like a baseball bat, which told me he had no training in the art of bojutsu. Then he charged. Luckily, the stick was the short version, so the instant his front foot shifted, I rammed my shoe into his kneecap. He went down with a howl—enough time for Shig to recover, snag the guy, and take me home with a story that made my father proud.

Unhappily, the incident demolished what was left of my parents’ rocky marriage. While Jake loved his adopted country, my mother never really took to it. She felt like the perpetual outsider, a pale-faced Caucasian in a size fourteen dress surrounded by a sea of eternal size sixes. “Putting me at risk” was the last straw in a precariously high haystack. We flew to Los Angeles, and Jake stayed in Tokyo. The arrangement became permanent.

But that was fifteen years ago. A lot had happened in between: my mother passed away, I moved to San Francisco, and I got a handle on the art trade—soft work, according to Jake, but a world I found as fascinating as my mom had, though it was filled with its own brand of shark.

Then nine months ago, not a word between us in years, Jake died suddenly, and when I flew to Japan to attend the funeral, I landed in the path of real yakuza this time, not Uncle Shig’s cheeseball yaki hopefuls. I managed to hold my own against them—barely—in the process tracking down a long-lost tea bowl that belonged to the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. The events made the headlines and I became something of a local hero.

Which was another reason I’d been invited to Japantown. That, and the fact that I had resources the SFPD did not: Jake had left me half of his agency, despite our estrangement.

Both my parents were gone, and I was being sucked into the life that had driven them apart. Which is how, at the age of thirty-two, I found myself juggling an art store and a detective agency. Refined on the one hand, brutish on the other.

In short, I was the bull in the china shop—except I owned the shop.

And tonight I had a very bad feeling about where that might lead.

What People are Saying About This

Larry Bond
Japantown is an expertly written story with vivid, complex characters. The mystery holds surprises until the very end.”
New York Times bestselling author of The Informationist - Taylor Stevens
“From gritty San Francisco to exotic Tokyo, Japantown is a whip-smart, razor-fast ride, and entertaining from cover to cover.”
New York Times Bestselling Author of The Famous and the Dead, and The Jaguar - T. Jefferson Parker
“This is a terrific debut from a talented and very promising writer. Nimbly written and atmospheric, Lancet brings San Francisco to life in all its layers, focusing on the mysteries of the Japanese-American people. He depicts a rich mixture of art and violence, the past and the present, east and west.”
author of In the President's Secret Service and The Secrets of the FBI - Ronald Kessler
“Get ready for an action-packed, tension-filled escape with Barry Lancet’s thriller worthy of Elmore Leonard. The trail of crime races from Tokyo to New York and returns inevitably to Japantown, six square blocks in San Francisco, where antiques dealer and private eye Jim Brodie walks a dangerous line in the shadow world of clashing cultures.”
New York Times bestselling author of Edge of Black - J.T. Ellison
“An elegantly brutal thriller, Japantown is reminiscent of classic Daniel Silva and Barry Eisler. Lancet's unique background bleeds authenticity into the story. This is a bold and exciting debut. Don't miss it.”

Meet the Author

Barry Lancet is a Barry Award­–winning author and finalist for the Shamus Award. He has lived in Japan for more than twenty-five years. His former position as an editor at one of the nation’s largest publishers gave him access to the inner circles in traditional and business fields most outsiders are never granted, and an insider’s view that informs his writing. He is the author of the Jim Brodie series: The Spy Across the Table; Pacific Burn; Tokyo Kill; and Japantown, which received four citations for Best First Novel and has been optioned by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions, in association with Warner Brothers. Visit Lancet at BarryLancet.com or on Twitter @BarryLancet.

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