Barry Eisler recently reacquired the rights to his John Rain novels, gave them new titles and new covers and personally narrated new audiobook versions.
I was intrigued and decided to try the first book “A Clean Kill In Tokyo” which was published in 2002 as “Rain Fall”.
It was a fun read all the way through, not least because Barry Eisler turns our to be an excellent narrator.
John Rain is a Tokyo-based assassin, who specialises in making it seem as if the men he kills die of natural causes. Rain had a Japanese father and a white American mother, was raised in both countries and is fully at home in neither. He lives an affluent but disconnected life, built on killing for money.
In this novel, he’s the hero. That’s not a role he has much experience of. He takes it on reluctantly and it doesn’t entirely fit him. Even as a hero, his kill-rate is very high and causes him not a moments disquiet.
The foot-in-two-worlds aspects of the book are well executed and gave me an interesting blend of the familiar and the exotic..Tokyo becomes almost a character in the book. It’s described the way someone who lives there would see it, with its peculiarities taken for granted. The tourist map of Tokyo has been overwritten by one that stresses the places that are important to John Rain: Jazz Clubs. Whiskey Bars and the intricate subway network that he uses to elude those trying to follow him.
The plot is a mixture of backstory, explaining how John came to be the killer he now is, and a protect-the-brave-independent-but-vulnerable-damsel-in-distress theme that’s given a twist by the fact the Rain killed her father.
There is political intrigue, espionage, crime, corruption and lots and lots of fight scenes featuring martial arts, street fighting, knives, staves and guns.
I’m hooked now. Fortunately, there are eight John Rain books in print with a ninth coming out in July, so I expect them to become a regular source of entertainment this year.