Gone, mostly, are the torrential sentences of Tokyo Year Zero, in favour of a gumshoe yarn’s stripped-back prose. Nor are there the structural high jinks of Occupied City; instead, Peace generates his trademark sense of paranoid delirium from the twists and turns of the story itself, as new angles continually emerge, less on account of Sweeney’s deductive skill than what others are ready to tell him ... leads stealthily from the who-what-why of grudges and gangsters into hushed-up government departments and black ops ... Although you don’t need to have read the first two books to enjoy Tokyo Redux, it lands harder if you have, not least during an eerie sequence revisiting the protagonist of Tokyo Year Zero. Peace can be an uneven writer, but he’s somewhere near his best in this powerful, overwhelming novel, in which genre excitement steadily gives way to the uncannier frisson of being plugged into a current of secret knowledge.
There are echoing traces of the complicated patterns and pretensions of the previous books—an occasional italicized passage, another séance—but we have reached the decrescendo of this symphony. It comes as something of a relief ... that knife edge of disillusion lingers even after we reach what is, ultimately, a satisfying conclusion to a deeply ambitious and enjoyable series. There is no denying that in his Tokyo Trilogy Peace has built an intricate labyrinth. But it gets better, easier to navigate with each rereading. Rewarding the reader generously in ways other, easier, books cannot.
Peace’s baroque prose style is an acquired taste. He uses heavy, mesmeric repetition — of words, phrases and names — to generate a heightened sense of intrigue and dread ... Some motifs recur so frequently one starts to wonder if he’s doing it for a bet: a handkerchief is produced, and a face wiped, on no fewer than 35 occasions, and there’s a remarkable amount of sighing — I counted 77 instances. The atmospherics are decidedly lurid ... I don’t think I’ll ever know what a 'rodent sky' is but that’s beside the point: the novel’s vaguely deranged ambience makes for an absorbing if occasionally hammy portrait of the mystery writer’s psyche. When Kuroda delivers a feverish monologue on his fixation with Shimoyama, it is as if Peace — who spent a decade writing Tokyo Redux — is explaining his own compulsion to reanimate this old story: 'I will . . . put him together again, make this man whole again, line by line and page by page.'
Connections are suggested with the 1948 Teigin poisonings central to Occupied City, and there are hints of a tantalising web of complicity, but we don’t actually learn what really happened with Shimoyama. Peace writes crime fiction in name only; 'whodunit?' is a question entertained, then relinquished, and for all his paranoid speculations, Peace stays faithful to the inscrutable mystery of each of these historic cases, unresolved to this day. His prose is braided with actual press headlines running for pages on end ... The details are meticulously researched, down to the dying emperor’s Mickey Mouse wristwatch. The effect is one of transfixing veracity ... Repetition and rhyme, trusted Peace techniques (some might say tics), give the prose an incantatory rhythm and an epic feel. This often drifts into bathos ... Japanese is a distinctively onomatopoeic language; sense is conveyed by approximating the sound of things, feelings, even ideas. Peace channels this phonetic quality, coining leitmotivs to stress his key themes ... Many novels are hyped as 'polyphonic', but Peace’s now complete Tokyo trilogy truly is, brilliantly summoning forth multiple voices in the soundscape of a city gripped by seismic change.
Readers of Don DeLillo’s Libra (1988) will appreciate how Peace overlays a persuasive conspiracy on to the historical facts. But, in a manner reminiscent of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (2004), the mystery escapes resolution, and anyone drawn towards the crime’s dark star is destroyed by its gravity ... Despite its three-panelled structure, Tokyo Redux is a more straightforward crime procedural than the first two instalments of the trilogy. That may come as a disappointment to fans of the series, but for this reviewer it was a relief. While Peace admirably applies pressure to the form of genre fiction, aspiring towards poetry, his style can be excruciating ... it is often difficult to tell whether Peace wants us to read every word, or is inviting us to skim ... is likewise at times burdened by its style. It is a novel that, when describing a character getting on a plane, must tell us that it goes 'higher and higher, into the sky, up, up, up and away, away from the land'. A Peace trademark, which presumably some find beautiful, is how the sentences seem to feel their way forwards, as if in a state of first draft...This technique isn’t reserved for peak moments, or when its halting pace matches the condition of the characters: it is everywhere ... While the books can often feel overwritten, at times they are oddly underwritten ... the most successful part of the trilogy. With the first two novels, the degree to which you like Peace’s style is the degree to which you’ll like the book. In the more restrained Tokyo Redux, the author has been able more directly and aggressively to pursue his broader historical themes, while drawing the reader into a compelling mystery. The Shimoyama case is perfect for exploring the shadowside of postwar Japan, where authority cannot be trusted, no one is who they seem, and if someone confesses to a crime, that means they didn’t do it.
The first question when reviewing the third book in a trilogy is: do you need to read the others first? With David Peace’s new novel the answer is no, but it’s so good you might want to anyway ... too messy to be perfect (did he need to bring back characters from the first two books, in a brief mental hospital scene?), but it’s a powerful, stirring read, linked to its predecessors less by plot than by Peace’s indelible vision of a Japan consumed with shame after its wartime surrender, and a world where the only answers unfurl to reveal more questions. Sometimes reading his books feels like clinging to the edge of a slippery pit. But if you fall in, you’ll be in good company.
A dark, twist-filled mystery ... Sometimes Peace's style overrelies on line-by-line repetition, but the book has a songlike cadence that—thanks both to the riddles within riddles of the so-called 'Shimoyama incident' itself and Peace's sure veteran hand with suspense—trundles the reader along with a train's inexorable momentum ... A brisk and atmospheric true-crime thriller.