Author, Bantam, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Japan, Mo Hayder, Publisher, Setting

‘Tokyo’ by Mo Hayder


Fiction – paperback; Bantam; 480 pages; 2005.

Having written just two previous novels, Mo Hayder already has a reputation for writing fast-paced, intelligent thrillers. Tokyo is no exception.

For the first time, Hayder sets her novel on foreign soil, although her main narrator, the weird “Grey” whose shadowy past is never detailed in full, is English.

Grey has an obsession with the infamous Nanking Massacre of 1937. She tracks down a Chinese professor working in Tokyo who may be able to help her find a piece of film that records the atrocities that happened at the hands of the Japanese. But when Shi Chongming meets her he denies all knowledge of the film, claiming that it does not exist. Grey, who is annoyingly childlike and frustratingly naive throughout this entire novel, is unconvinced.

Not wanting to give up the search for the missing film, she moves into a crumbling old house in the Tokyo suburbs with a set of Russian twins and the weird Jason, who has an accent that sounds like he “might have been from England or America or Australia. Or all three”.

Despite her odd looks and penchant for Oxfam clothing, she finds work in an upmarket hostess club frequented by the Japanese mafia (yakuza). It is here that Grey is drawn to a wheelchair-bound gangster who drinks a strange elixir rumoured to ensure his ongoing health and well-being.

Little does she know that this yakuza “connection” will help her discover the real truth about what happened at Nanking all those years ago. Together with Chongming’s assistance, she sets upon a dangerous and terrifying adventure that will have you riveted from page to page. In fact, the stomach-churning conclusion is one of the finest heart-hammering pieces of fiction I have read in a long time.

Hayder has peppered this book with a vast array of mysterious characters with shady, unexplained pasts, which only adds to the intrigue. She deftly captures the seedy underbelly of Tokyo life, transporting the reader to a strange world of glass skyscrapers, neon lighting and oppressive weather conditions. And she successfully intertwines past and present by putting Chongming’s 1937 story and Grey’s modern day experiences in alternate chapters. (At first this is a little annoying, but the reader soon gets used to it.)

All in all, a very fine and fast-paced novel.

Author, Bantam, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, London, Mo Hayder, Publisher, Setting

‘Birdman’ by Mo Hayder


Fiction – paperback; Bantam; 395 pages; 2001.

If you like crime thrillers that are fast-paced and intelligent, with believable characters and a plot that keeps you guessing right until the end, then you will eat up Mo Hayder‘s Birdman. Mind you, the gruesome detail is not for the faint-hearted, but this is what elevates Hayder’s writing above so many run-of-the mill crime novels cluttering the bestseller lists — she is not afraid to tell it like it is even if the descriptions may be hard to stomach.

Essentially, Birdman is about the police hunt for the murderer of five prostitutes, whose bodies are found dumped in wasteland near the Millennium Dome in south-east London. Inside each victim lies a mysterious clue left by the perpetrator of the crime.

It is the Met’s crack young detective inspector, Jack Caffery, who looks beyond the obvious, often incurring the wrath of his fellow colleagues, to track down the sexual serial killer before another woman falls victim.

Meanwhile, Caffery is wrestling demons of his own, including the mysterious childhood disappearance of his brother, a demanding girlfriend fighting off cancer and a burgeoning relationship with a pretty female artist who he feels he shouldn’t be getting involved with. This not only makes Caffery such a compelling and convincing character, it underpins the novel’s intelligence and moral seriousness, something which also characterises Hayder’s second novel, The Treatment.

Unfortunately, I read these books in the wrong order, not knowing that the storylines are linked, so I’d recommend reading Birdman first (otherwise you know which girl he ends up with and which of his fellow crimefighters is killed on the job).

Author, Bantam, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, London, Mo Hayder, Publisher, Setting

‘The Treatment’ by Mo Hayder


Fiction – paperback; Bantam; 496 pages; 2002.

Mo Hayder’s The Treatment is one of those books that you read with a mixture of fascination, fear and repulsion.

It’s a disturbing and gruesome tale set in south London in which a young boy goes missing from a quiet residential area. It’s not a normal case of child abduction though — his parents are discovered tied up and beaten in the family home. It’s police detective inspector Jack Caffery who must not only find the boy but piece together what happened in the hours leading up to his disappearance.

The parents, traumatised by the experience, hint at a horror too despicable to imagine. But it’s only when Caffery — battling childhood demons of his own and juggling a volatile relationship with his demanding girlfriend — puts his life and job on the line, that things begin to fall into place.

All in all, this is a fast-paced read with enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing all the way through. Hayder has created a relentlessly intense and chilling story with believable characters — particularly Caffery, who is drawn with just the right measure of tough-guy attitude and human vulnerability.

If you like your crime thrillers edgy, intelligent and thought-provoking, look no further than The Treatment, just don’t expect to sleep easy at night!