21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Mo Hayder at her best,
This review is from: The Devil of Nanking (Paperback)Recently re-published, THE DEVIL OF NANKING is identical in all but title to the original novel TOKYO, and for me consolidates Mo Hayder as one of the very best thriller writers around today. Her more mainstream novels Birdman and The Treatment were excellent but this one is even better, despite it being a wholly different kind of story and one which you will probably be thinking about a year or more from now. It's one of those rare occasions when I was yearning to reach the end (to find out what happens) while knowing at all times that I will be a little bit emptier for doing so, because I knew that the chances of my next reading material being as entertaining as this are very slim. What a treat it is to be seduced, mesmerised and teased by the written word! Mo Hayder's is an exceptional talent, her research is comprehensive and convincing, her ability to create a sense of atmosphere a cut above the majority of her peers. I can vouch for at least some of this novel's authenticity as I lived in Tokyo for most of the 1990s myself, so little corporate touches such as Pocky's, Lawson Station and the Maranouchi Line bring back memories of a city that changed my life for the better, even if this tale might lead you to think only of its darker sides.
Although the violence of Hayder's first two books is less graphic here, she manages to build a story once again around a somewhat taboo subject. In her debut novels we had to come to terms with paedophilia and necrophilia, in The Devil of Nanking the subject matter is arguably the lowest and most repellent form of human activity; what makes it all the more shocking is that her fictional tale is based on events that supposedly did take place. But what I enjoyed most was Hayder's skill at leaving the worst atrocities unwritten, at implication rather than description, at leaving the reader to imagine some of the events which, as we know, is invariably more horrifying than actually knowing. One of the scariest characters in this novel is a 'person' with a variety of noms-de-plume including The Nurse and The Beast of Saitama - and trust me when I suggest that The Nurse makes Luca Brazzi seem like your fairy godmother in comparison. That's one of the enduring memories of the book for me, the fact that some of the 'events' were never explicitly described so you are left to complete them in your own mind, and this uncertainty makes them even more horrific than they would have been had they been explained in full by the writer. Delicious, old-fashioned and how it should be done in my humble opinion.
The Devil of Nanking is chilling, haunting, gritty yet lyrical, stylish and suspenseful, very moving and thought-provoking but ultimately it is a real treat to be entertained in this way with the reader having to fill in some of the crucial gaps and being more emotionally disturbed as a consequence. A thriller of the highest order and one that you should add to your 'must read' list without a doubt.