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Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn (Thomas Dunne Books) Hardcover – Nov 2005

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Best reasons to read crime fiction 5 Jan. 2006
By C. Forehan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I won't recap the plot of Marshall Browne's latest detective novel - that has been adequately covered by other reviewers. Simply put, "Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn" reminds me of why I bother to read crime fiction in these days of read-and-forget "pulp". I use that last word deliberately, as for many years I co-presented a radio program named "Pulp!" which took as its starting point the great pulp writers of the mid-20th century. Over the years I've read too many books which live up to the negative connotations of the epithet "pulp". This is not one of them.

Marshall Browne is an intelligent writer who knows how to get inside the mind of his protagonist. He has done this superbly in his Inspector Anders books, and now has created a similarly compelling and unusual character in Inspector Hideo Aoki of the Tokyo Municipal Police. Crime books set in Japan are enough of a rarity to give this outing an advantage over the more commonly-travelled mean streets of crime fiction. Browne evokes the particular characteristics of both the city and rural settings with great care and attention to detail. In fact, detail is an area of writing at which he excels, with meticulous research adding to the vividness of the novel, but never weighing it down as sometimes happens. Nowadays I read little crime fiction, but a book like this reminds me of what originally drew me to the genre, and indeed what can make it great and memorable reading.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great new Japanese Police Detective 18 Dec. 2005
By Cat lover in Arlington - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Set in Japan and especially in a northern inn (called Ryokan) the atmosphere and sense of place for me made it a winner. But there's plenty of mystery and blood-soaked action! We meet Detective Inspector Hideo Aoki of the Tokyo Municipal Police, a Robert De Niro look-a-like, I think, whose life both as cop and person has collapsed. He's been pulled from a case involving a corrupt and murderous ex-governor, nicknamed the Fatman. Aoki can't get this nasty politician out of his head. He gets suspended. Bad things happen to his wife, and a newspaperman who writes it up. Aoki spirals down further. His boss, Superintendent Watanabe (a really sinister character) sends the Inspector for a supposed health-cure to the remote inn. Aoki recalls it featured in an unsolved case of a missing woman years prior, who was the wife of a prominent banker and also the former owner of the inn, now run by her daughter. The seventh anniversary of the disappearance is coming up, and a number of people have assembled: the missing woman's banker husband, a Tokyo bureaucrat who was her callous lover - and her ex-husband, a half-crazy chef. A snowstorm totally isolates the inn. As the lights fail and the phones are cut (cell phones don't work in these mountains) murder and mayhem break out. Recovering from his nervous breakdown, with no badge, no forensics back-up, no cop partner to work with, no communications - and no gun! Aoki prowls the rambling and dark inn trying to solve the old case, the new murders - and stay alive himself. The deeply plotted story has more twists and turns than the corridors and staircases of the inn! The events at the inn lead back to the Fatman and the Yakusa - the Japanese Mafia. The creepy atmosphere evoked, the characters - all with a secret agenda, including the missing woman's beautiful and reticent daughter - kept me on the edge. I really liked the bits where Aoki befriends the inn's cat - and looks after his late wife's bonsai plants. And the mystery man from Osaka, who endlessly plays the ancient and war-like game of Go adds more intrigue. The story stalks you and bit by bit draws you in - in a frightening way. Can Inspector Aoki make a come-back? I hope so.

A cat lover in Arlington.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Atmospheric modern Japanese thriller 8 Mar. 2006
By Lynn Harnett - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Another cerebral, atmospheric thriller from the Australian author of the Italian Inspector Anders series, this one is set in modern Japan and features the reserved, dedicated Detective Inspector Hideo Aoki of the Tokyo police.

The book opens with an abrupt, devastating end to 17 months of hard, secretive work by Aoki and his team documenting the criminal corruption of a powerful politician. Word has come from above to drop the nearly completed case and disperse Aoki's team to other duties forthwith.

The detective prides himself on his stoicism. "Aoki was a pragmatist, like his mother. What came to him - in his police life, in his sparse life beyond that - he accepted. He took orders and worked hard and efficiently. Whatever way something finished, he went on to the next task, the next stage, but this time was different." His team had poured their lives into the investigation. One detective's marriage had broken up because of it.

Drinking too much, Aoki finds himself unwilling to go home to the gentle, cultured milieu of his wife and elderly father. Several years after the arranged, amenable marriage "it had occurred to Aoiki that his father had been choosing a daughter-in-law as much as a wife for his son." He struggles to conform, to take up his new, mundane assignment, but then the detective whose marriage had failed commits suicide.

Aoki breaks down at the supper table, and his wife, trying to help, leaks the case to a journalist. Aoki is suspended and his life begins to splinter under a series of devastating blows. In an effort to help, Inspector Watanabe, his superior, sends Aoki to a ryokan, a remote mountain retreat where men can shed the modern rat race and steep themselves in hot-spring baths and tranquil tradition, including Geisha services.

But Aoki arrives to find strange company. A banker and the government functionary who cuckolded him are dining together on the anniversary eve of the unfaithful wife's disappearance seven years earlier. It was a sensational case and its lack of closure stalled Watanabe's career. In addition an elderly Go master talks in riddles and seems to know a bit too much about Aoki and his troubles, and the exquisite proprietor (daughter of the missing woman) exerts an allure as powerful as she is remote.

A massive snowstorm traps all these people together without electricity (a minor inconvenience in this ancient inn) or phone and murder stalks the night. Secret rooms and ingenious medieval warning systems contribute to the atmosphere of ancient, enigmatic culture, behind-the-scenes menace and manipulation.

This is not a flawless book. Some plot elements are a stretch, starting with the convenient snowstorm and even more convenient assemblage of characters. But Browne's skill with character and atmosphere more than make up for this and readers will wish he would write faster so we can have more of Aoiki and another Inspector Anders too.

--Portsmouth Herald
A Thriller/ Yakuza Crosshairs Japan's Banks(A Criminal Singnature USA 2008?) 25 Sept. 2010
By R. A. Barricklow - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Japanese detective Aoki is very, very good. He's proven that he can get the job done. Problem is/Politicians give and they take way.
Aoki and his selected team are given a high profile teflon political target. Aoki's investigation takes it's toll on his team in a lengthly top secret operation. All the legal ducks finially are lined-up and all thats needed is the order to start the arrests. But the rug is pulled out from under him and his men. Much face is lost. But kicks in the face from a systemically corrupt system(worldwide, including USA) come with the job. Aoki's mistake was that he'd forgotten its sponsors were a breed who always kept their options open and they don't want their dirty laundry aired. His other mistake was that he had gone straight from college into the metropolitan police and, in due corse, had been stamped out of its mold. So when a journalist is murdered because his wife wanted to restore Aoki's honor - he's in it for blood. The savage nature of the killing was a graphic message: a terrible lesson in not seeing, hearing, or telling(keep quiet about criminal business). Any hopes of any opposition political power breaking the criminal stranglehold on power were hardly more effective than the shadow play of those puppets. As the loses mount up for Aoki he is reminded of what his father told him/In time, the real appreciation of certain lost things comes to most of us. It is often accompanied by great sadness.
His loved ones, and all they stood for, had slipped through his fingers, seemingly in a eyeblink. Broken in spirit and mind Aoki is wisked off to the far away Kamakura Inn to recuperate or be terminated from the force.
A head of a large bank and a minister of finance are at the inn and tell Aoki/There're still trillions in gray area loans on the books. It wouldn't take too much to terminate our banking and financial world. Maybe up to half the bad debts involve yakuza. Somebody called our recession the yakuza recession. These shark's are business killers, life destroyers. The banker and minister of finance were to protect only the yakuza loans. Their doctored-up spin would be broadcast to the nation, masking the real truth behind the banking collapse.
Also at the inn are key players in a seven year old murder case that remains unsolved, in which a fresh recruit named Aoki was involved. And now, a much more experienced Aoki, in success and failure, will have to, yet again, steel himself for another battle of wits, agility, & strength - for this time he's been rendezvoused in(n) to die.

A Mystery You Can Sink Your Teeth into 14 July 2013
By Tiffany Ann Ford - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Detective Inspector Hideo Aoki of the Tokyo Municipal Police has been on the trail of former Governor Yukio "Fatman" Tamaki a corrupt politician for a long time, but the investigation is closed down by his superiors, it seems the Fatman is above the law. Couple that with the death of his father and the suicide of his wife and you have a deeply troubled man.

Then he is sent by his supervisor, Superintendent Watanabe, to a Ryokan (a Japanese inn like resort) to get over his despair and once there, he finds himself in the middle of a seven-year-old mystery concerning the disappearance of a woman and, just like in a lot of those old black and white Charlie Chan mysteries I loved so well, all of the suspects in the woman's disappearance are at the in and are trapped their by a snowstorm, so Aoki has lots of time to try and solve this old case. And he's going to have to solve it, because the phones don't work and bodies are piling up. So why are all the suspects there in the first place? Who put this tableau in place? And how does what is happening at the inn have anything to do with the Fatman?

This is a kind of mystery I really love, one you can sink your teeth into. Not only is the mystery superb, but Aoki, a complex man with both ancient Japanese traditions and modern Western ways competing for his soul, is a character I really loved. At times he is depressed as all get out, but he is dogged and determined. And the ending that I didn't figure out is really something you just have to sample for yourself.
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