“Brilliant and confounding” – Tokyo Redux by David Peace

dptrhbSome fifteen plus years since it began, David Peace’s Tokyo Trilogy comes to a close with Tokyo Redux. You’ll remember, the series kicked off with Tokyo Year Zero in 2006 – a straightforward (for Peace) retelling of a serial killer in Japan in the dog days following the end of the Second World War, and was followed by Occupied City, one of Peace’s least straightforward books (although we think GB84 still holds the crown for the hardest Peace book), somewhat modelled on the Rashomon device of different tellers, each of which gave Peace the scope to run off in a different direction, ensuring that the tale of a bank robber turned poisoner could be said to be somewhat hard going. For the most part, Tokyo Redux breathes the same rarefied air as Patient X, his recent novel about the Japanese writer Akutagawa, in that it feels like a calmer book, a book written by a writer who has settled into his skin, who has less to prove, who is confident of his abilities.

We’ve had a serial killer and we’ve had a poisonous bank robber. This time around we have a disappearance and a death that may be an assassination and may be a suicide, and there are factions, powerful factions, looking to sway the outcome of the various investigations one way or the other. Unlike both Tokyo Year Zero (which had a single narrator) and Occupied City which had 12 (or 13 if you include the writer), Tokyo Redux has three narrators, each of whom report to us from a different time period (which also sets this book apart from its predecessors): there is Harry Sweeney (1949), an American detective leading the missing persons investigation for National Head of Railways Shimoyama; then you have Murota Hideki (1964) continuing the investigation (by admittedly investigating another person who has gone missing whilst themselves looking into the Shimoyama case) against a backdrop of the Olympics; and finally Donald Reichenbach (1988), an elderly man living in Tokyo and thinking back on days gone by, wrapping up the loose ends.

And what about its place in the trilogy? What about it’s overall trilogy-ness, now that we find ourselves at the close? Well, it’s the Tokyo trilogy to state the bleedin’ obvious. It’s all set in Tokyo and concerned with events that occurred at the close of the second world war. Occupation is a theme. Defeat is a theme. The relationship between the East and the West, arguably. To a certain extent each book is standalone (although as Tokyo Redux progresses there are more and more callbacks to the previous books). This is not a trilogy the way the Red Riding Quartet is a quartet (unless I’m missing something). If you compare these books with, say, James Ellroy’s first LA Quartet, there is no Dudley Smith arc here, no overarching tale of decline, in that sense. But there are echoes and resonances. Tokyo Redux functions like a mirror to Tokyo Year Zero: where Year Zero had three sections, The Gate of Flesh, The Bridge of Tears and The Mountain of Bones, Redux has three sections with those titles in reverse – The Mountain of Bones, The Bridge of Tears, The Gate of Flesh. Could I tell you exactly what that means? Probably not.

It is worth saying, though, that David Peace – a writer who could very easily be thought of as a ‘hard’ writer, someone you lock horns with rather than relax alongside – is changing his tactics a bit. Tokyo Year Zero is a hard book. Occupied City is, at times, a very hard book. Tokyo Redux is not as hard a book. It feels complex, certainly. You want your wits about you. You’ll want to pay attention. But it’s not exhausting in the way that Occupied City could be at times. Tokyo Redux is a book I enjoyed spending time in the company of and, perhaps more importantly, a book I wanted to get back to when I was away from it. That has not always been true of Peace’s books. (It’s also worth saying that on the back of Tokyo Redux, I picked myself up a copy of Red or Dead, Peace’s 800 page plus novel about Bill Shankly, and the only David Peace novel I purposely swerved – Red or Dead immediately preceded Patient X and I’m now very keen to understand where this later period Peace began. We say ‘late period Peace’ because he has been talking about doing a Tarantino and retiring after 12 books – which would make his next book (possibly on Geoffrey Boycott) his last.)

Any Cop?: It’s certainly a sturdy end for the Tokyo Trilogy, as brilliant and confounding (at times) as Peace has ever been.

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