A prequel to the thriller series whose protagonist is John Rain, assassin for hire, this new novel takes place in Tokyo in 1972. Rain, recently returned from combat duty in Vietnam and Cambodia and having left the military under a cloud, barely 20 years old, he finds a job of sorts as a CIA bagman. Rain is half American and half Japanese; after his father was killed in street riots in Tokyo in 1960, when Rain was eight years old, his mother brought him to the US, where he stayed until her death, at which time he joined the military. His beloved Suzuki motorcycle has been dubbed “Thanatos,” which he felt was “appropriate after what I’d done in the war.”
After a series of incidents which trigger “combat reflexes shaped in the jungle,” and initially at least through no fault on his part, Rain finds that “something about my demeanor . . . was suddenly making everyone swoon for my apparent potential as a contract killer,” and so the Rain we have come to know and love is born. Rain also displays a sentimental side: “My past and everyone part of it sundered, irretrievable, accessible to me now only as painful and haunted memories, some still sharp, some increasingly indistinct . . . But with sufficient exposure, you get acclimated to anything, killing included.” And ultimately there is “the smooth,ineluctable symmetry of fate.”
The author manages to inject humor into a tale that is, unexpectedly, almost dispassionate, not as dark or graphic as might have been the case in lesser hands, despite the high body count. And the mantra throughout: “Sometimes there’s just what you can do, and what you can’t.” By book’s end, Rain is forced to enter a self-imposed exile and starts a decade of life as a fugitive.