Tokyo Year Zero
by David Peace Faber and Faber, HK$120
David Peace wrote one of the finest novels about sport ever published, The Damned Utd, and Tokyo Year Zero proves he has mastered the knack of writing stories that combine imaginative ambition with popular appeal. The first part of a trilogy, it opens during Tokyo's darkest days. It is 1946 and the city seems on the brink of extinction: not only have America's atomic bombs just destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but Japan's neighbours are turning vengeful attention towards their defeated neighbour.
So when a number of murdered geishas are found decomposing in Shiba Park hardly anyone notices - except the obsessive Detective Minami. A former Imperial soldier, he throws himself into the investigation even though he can hardly summon the energy to speak to his family. Minami is the personification of post-war Japan: haunted and humiliated by recent defeat but determined to move on.
Having lived in Tokyo for more than a decade, Peace clearly knows what he is writing about - the case is even based on actual events - but what really drives Tokyo Year Zero are Minami's compelling voice and the thrust of Peace's prose.