Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace

There’s something of the nagging fine-tuned circling of a shark about Peace’s prose. I can imagine his fractured repetitive staccato prose style will alienate about 50% of readers but I loved it. It’s the kind of writing you feel compelled to speak aloud to get the precarious rhythmic grace of it.

It’s Japan, 1946, a dystopian heart of darkness. Our narrator is Inspector Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, a homicide detective in a city strewn with corpses. A man tormented by his war experience, by the humiliation of Japan, by a drug habit which makes him vulnerable to a murderous crime boss and by the growing difficulty of keeping his family free from hunger and disease.

The case he is working on is based on a real one – the bodies of two girls are found in a park. An arrest is quickly made – this isn’t your run of the mill crime mystery – but the accused only admits to one of the murders. Then the case file for the other murder goes missing. Something is badly awry in the police department.

Before long more bodies turn up. Minami, a man with a guilty secret, seeks to give these young girls back their identity but it’s made apparent it’s his own identity he’s trying to recover.

This is a relentlessly bleak novel, burrowing deeper and deeper into the interiority of a deeply troubled soul, both of a defeated individual and a defeated nation. Just as well then that the prose is thrillingly inspired and freshly original.sorrentino-450

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