What often grates me about David Peace’s endless style of repetition works here.
Whereas his Red Riding Quartet was full of a bunch of self-loathing white policemen and journalists who couldn’t deal in a world their fathers had built, Tokyo Year Zero has a more compelling lead detective: a man who may or may not have committed a war crime in China now operating as a police officer in the first year of Allied occupation in Tokyo. His nation has lost and must now deal with the consequences.
Amidst all of it is a rather predictable serial killer cat-and-mouse game but that’s the least interesting part of the story. I was fascinated with how Detective Minami maneuvered through the Tokyo police world and criminal world (and sometimes American world) in a wrecked metropolis trying to solve one crime while trying to understand the other crimes he and his nation had committed.
Thus the repetitious style worked for me. Because you have a man among a people who have endured mass national trauma in the form of bombings (two of them nuclear), a lost war, and occupation. Everyone is adjusting and on top of that, Minami is trying to find a killer, attempting to piece himself together while the city does too. The repetitive ton-ton hammer noise not only serving as a constant source of angst but as a reminder that rebuilding is painful.
The ending is disappointing. While I don’t mind ambiguity, it feels more like a parlor trick here. But answers aren’t common in David Peace’s books. The experience isn’t alway worth it in the Red Riding Quartet. It was worth it here.