Donohue crisply and elegantly blends Japanese martial arts and urban New York in his assured debut, a thriller about a vengeance-seeking Ronin, or masterless samurai. Dr. Connor Burke is an adjunct history instructor at a small Long Island university, a prot g of Yamashita Sensei, a reclusive but renowned martial arts teacher-and a likable lead character. When it becomes clear that the murder of another sensei (a teacher) is part of a pattern, Burke becomes doubly involved, because he's a suspect and his cop brother Micky is one of the detectives investigating the case. As the novel whips along with the Ronin's motivation only gradually emerging, Burke takes the reader deeper and deeper into the arcane world of the martial arts: its techniques, disciplines and weapons; its spiritualism, customs and traditions. Lucid and dramatic fight scenes avoid the absurd hyperbole typical of a lot of martial arts fiction, while even minor characters, such as the university president and the members of Micky's family, are skillfully sketched. The author may telegraph the climactic scene too early, but he does a masterful job of depicting the ultimate struggle to capture or contain the Ronin. Both mystery buffs and martial arts fans will be well rewarded. Agent, Jacques de Spoelberch. (Apr.) Forecast: As a black belt in both Karatedo and Kendo, and as associate editor of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts with four nonfiction martial arts books to his credit, the author is well poised to push this novel to the initiated. Blurbs from Charles Johnson, Dale Furutani and James Grady (author of Six Days of the Condor) will help catch the attention of the uninitiated. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Every good martial-arts student knows that "you don't talk back. You don't ask rude questions. You don't cop an attitude-that's the sensei's prerogative." The sensei, or teacher, in this case is the iconic Yamashita, master warrior. The student is Connor Burke, who's been at it-the demanding, humbling process of martial-arts training-long enough to acquire extraordinary competence. He's going to need it, because things are about to get hairy indeed around Yamashita's dojo. In California, a famous karate teacher is found dead; a short time later, there's a second martial-arts-related death, and then a third, this time in New York. In each case, the killer leaves his bloody signature behind: Ronin, Japanese for a gunslinger with a grudge. Connor and his brother Mick, an NYPD homicide detective, become convinced that the object of Ronin's antipathy is none other than Yamashita, and that the killings are a deranged and convoluted way of stalking him. They're right. "From hurt to hate is a small step," the sensei acknowledges. He understands that the blow he long ago inflicted reluctantly on a supersensitive ego was severe and that the immeasurably talented Ronin craves payback. But no one realizes until it's almost too late the complexity of Ronin's revenge strategy, and the lethal role it includes for Connor. Strong story, good writing, colorful setting. Donohue, who has black belts in karate and kendo, has published extensively on the marital arts, but this is his fiction debut, and an impressive one it is. Agent: Jaques de Spoelberch/J de S Associates