Student Grey Hutchins comes to Tokyo seeking answers to what happened during the notorious Nanking Massacre in which, in one city, the Imperial Japanese Army killed up to 300,000 civilians. With its focus on 1980’s Tokyo and China in the late 1930s, and a woman who has quite a lot to prove and even more to hide, this is a literary thriller of the highest order. With its heady atmosphere of overt violence, lurking fear and sexual tension, Tokyo is a novel that takes hold of the reader and does not let go until its explosive final pages.
This book was also released under the title The Devil of Nanking.
Tokyo is another of Mo Hayder’s deliciously chilling criminal outings, but probably won’t produce the frisson of disapproval that such novels as Birdman and The Treatment did. The days are gone when Hayder was identified as one of a cadre of women writers who did something totally unacceptable: produce grisly crime novels quite as unsettling as the products of male imagination. People seem to have finally accepted that the tough crime novel needn’t be an exclusively male preserve.
Her troubled female protagonist in Tokyo is Grey, haunting the thronging streets of Tokyo in search of an elusive piece of film recording the infamous Nanking massacre of 1937. But did the film ever exist? The past is a touchy subject for Grey, with incidents in her own life that she has not yet come to terms with. She ill-advisedly becomes a hostess in a nightclub where the clientele is a tad unsavoury (another example of Hayder utilising real-life crime for her plots, with the echoes of a recent murder case). And Grey finds a lead to her quest: a taciturn survivor of the massacre who is now an academic, with no time for the woman pestering him. But Grey makes progress with him—until she encounters a powerful Godfather figure and his violent associates, with a clandestine source for his well-being a much sought-after elixir. Soon, Grey’s life becomes two things: very complicated and a place of considerable danger.
The change of locale for Mo Hayder here has ensured that the imaginative energy of her earlier books is consolidated, as is the rejection of the now hackneyed serial killer plot. Atmosphere is brilliantly sustained, set pieces are pulse-racing, and (most satisfying of all) Grey is a truly complex and damaged heroine, the perfect conduit for the reader through this dark world.—Barry Forshaw