Book Review: "Rain Fall" by Barry Eisler

Genre: Thriller: Assassin

Rating: 4 Water Towers

John Rain is a killer. But unlike most for hire killers, he comes with a code of ethics: He will not kill women or children, he will only kill the principle (not some poor soldier just taking orders), he wants proof of wrongdoing, and he wants to be the only one working this particular hit.

Rain also has a talent for killing someone in a way that looks like that person died a natural death. All in all Rain is a tough, lethal (Judo expert), half-American, half-Japanese, killing machine (he has a heart…but, I’m not sure, yet, how big).

One thing I do know: These books are dead on with my genre (See “Authors and Genre Overview”)!

Set in Japan, this is a terrific book that is easy-to-read (but have a dictionary handy, especially in the first few chapters), exciting, high tech, and educational.Quite an interesting package.

I now have the complete set of books (see digression), so be prepared for some kick-butt Rain reviews in the next few months.

Digression….

So why do I have all of Eisler’s books?One day while I was cruising Border’s bookstore in Dublin (on a very rare visit to that side of the Hill), I picked up a book of his to read the inside front cover, and to my surprise, the book was signed (!!). I checked with an employee to verify that the signature was real and she told me that Barry often stops in local bookstores as he is a Bay Area resident (and apparently not afraid to brave the traffic ).

By now, you know my weakness for signed books, or rather my rule, BUY IT! I did and I also purchased “Rain Fall” (since it was the first in the series) and added both books to my queue. And there they sat, slowly bubbling up. One Friday night, months later, on our regular foray into B&N in Tracy, I saw a “monument” of Barry Eisler books on the Customer Service desk. I told my wife that they are probably signed…she promptly told me I was crazy. After a few hours, I casually strolled up to the monument and picked up a hardcover….I WAS RIGHT! They were signed. (Further discussion with B&N’s store manager, verified the fact that Barry had visited, and, that, he was very good looking). Following my rule…I bought it and I have since filled out my supply of Barry Eisler books.

End of Digression….

In “Rain Fall” we meet John Rain and learn that he is ex-Special Forces and ex-CIA. He has been engaged in the most dangerous operations during the Vietnam conflict with a “Special Operations Group”, SOG, working in stealth in Cambodia and Laos. There, we find out, he was involved in “atrocities” that haunt him to this day, but he also discovers he has a skill that few have. After his time in service is over, John returns to Japan to start his career as a free-agent, contract, assassin.

Most of his jobs come from “Benny”.Benny calls John, gives him the details of the assignment, John completes the task and Benny pays him. Easy.

John contracts out another person, “Harry” as an assistant…..of sorts (History: years ago John saved Harry from some drunken Marines).Harry is not involved with the gig past a certain point, so he should be in the dark about what the ultimate outcome is (and John arranges fake gigs to keep Harry in the dark….or else he may have to kill him).Harry is computer hacker extraordinaire who spent some quality hacking time with the NSA. Bored with that, Harry returned to Japan to become a security consultant and hacker. Unfortunately (for Harry), Harry is pretty smart, and is figuring out that most of the folks they track down end up dead (of natural causes, but, still dead). Does that mean that John may have to take care of Harry before the end of the book? Sorry, you will have to read it to find out what happens.

In this book, a career diplomat in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), named Yasuhiro Kawamura is the target assigned to John by Benny.In the LDP, Kawamura is the vice minister of land and infrastructure. Obviously he has ticked someone off big time. John kills Kawamura very neatly by remotely controlling the man’s pacemaker so it appears as though he died from a heart attack. Normally, at this point, John’s involvement would end.

But, as Kawamura was dying and John was retrieving his remote transmitter / pacemaker control device from the body, a stranger stopped to “help”. John quickly recovered his high tech device, and as he retreated back onto the subway he noticed the stranger going through Kawamura’s pockets. That struck John as very odd, and John rode away not quite disconnected from this case.

Upon contacting Benny to finish the job and set up payment, John becomes even more suspicious that something much more interesting is happening than he previously considered.

Days later, to make matters worse, Harry informs John that the day after Kawamura died, someone broke into Kawamura’s apartment. All this is too much for John to let go…..someone looking for something in Kawamura’s pockets, someone looking for something in his apartment. John’s curiosity is getting the best of him and he needs to keep investigating.

One night, needing to unwind, John decides to go to his favorite jazz club, Club Alfie. While there two things happen: the jazz musician playing that night happens to be the daughter of a gov’t official who recently died of a heart attack: Midori Kawamura, and, the stranger who John saw going through the dead Kawamura’s pockets shows up and talks to her.

From here the, sometimes brutal, action escalates as John and Midori join up (in more ways than one) to solve the mystery of why Midori’s father had to die. Along the way, with Harry’s help, they uncover layers and layers of deceit and deception in the Japanese government and beyond. To complicate matters, much of the deceit / deception involve old “friends” from John’s days in Vietnam. No one can be trusted until the final outcome is known. The ending is bittersweet.

John Rain is a complex character; I am still not sure if he is a good guy (how can a cold blooded, for money, killer be good?) or a really bad guy? He saves people he likes, but, he kills others without second thought (one though who truly deserves it). Will he continue killing for money, or will he kill for other reasons? Does it matter? Will he stop killing? Will he find true love? Does that matter?

I do know one thing…I AM looking forward to the next adventure and learning more about John Rain, Japan, Tokyo, and the Japanese culture (at the back of the book there is an explanation that all but two of the facts about Tokyo are correct).

Barry Eisler has definitely been added to my “favorites” list. “Rain Fall” is a great book.

For fun I did a Google on Alfie’s Jazz Club in Tokyo: http://homepage1.nifty.com/live/alfie/

That may be the place!??

Oh yeah….being yeoldetechy, I’m hoping advanced featured videoconferencing gets some play time in future editions…

6 comments

  1. I met Barry Eisler at the RT conference in Orlando, and he gave away signed copies of Fault Line. Never mind that I’d already bought and read it on my own, I gleefully accepted it. But I’d never read the Rain books – because 1) I’m anally ‘read in order’ and 2) “assassin” and “thriller” didn’t push my buttons. But I decided to give them a go, and, after getting past the 1st few pages of the first book, with its numerous Japanese names, have been devouring them. The way Eisler can create empathy for his character was a blog topic of my own recently. The man can turn a phrase.
    http://terryodell.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-can-you-like-antihero.html

    My only regret: I bought only the 1st three in the series, and now have to dig up a copy of #4, which my local B&N doesn’t carry. But I shall prevail.

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