When 19-year-old Natasha Philips is found drowned, Manchester police attribute her death to “misadventure.” But the girl’s wealthy father suspects foul play and, convinced the police are incompetent, secures the services of private investigator Colin McCann — against McCann’s better judgment.

Tokyo Nights, by Jim Douglas.
342 pages

The person of interest, Natasha’s former boyfriend, Charlie Davis, has gone to ground in Japan. McCann flies to Tokyo and after some serious drinking, easily tracks down Davis.

Apart from his reasons for leaving England, Davis, we soon learn, has psychological issues, particularly with anger management. His hot temper results in his running afoul of some unpleasant yakuza, who nonetheless politely ask him to leave the country.

“Some people are very angry at you and you,” warns a man named Takano, pointing to Davis and McCann in turn. “If you know Japanese people, you trust us. We are not always so nice people, I know, but we say we will pay, we always pay. That is our rule. We take you Narita Airport, so there is no more trouble.”

The invitation to depart Japan is disregarded, and havoc ensues. Davis flees Tokyo and the tenacious but hung-over McCann pursues him to Hokkaido. The story’s unexpected violent climax evokes memories of two films: Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” (1971) and Sydney Pollack’s “The Yakuza” (1974).

McCann cracks the case and gets paid; most of the other characters prove expendable. Residents of Japan are unlikely to recognize any of the locales in this book, except that it’s known to snow heavily in Hokkaido.


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