Sunday, August 28, 2011

BOOKS: Hard Rain by Barry Eisler

I realize now, I got my reviews of Jeffery Deaver's Edge backwards with this novel, Barry Eisler's Hard Rain. I read the two books on consecutive nights (one sign of a great book is the 'in one night' reading length), but I read this one first.

And for all intents and purposes, the books are the two opposites of the same coin. Edge was all about a bodyguard intent on protecting the lives of two witnesses. Hard Rain is the second book in the John Rain series. John Rain is an assassin.

It takes skill to make a reader root for a killer. Eisler has done a good job with this series. None of the (so far) six books in the series aren't worth the time reading them. There's a growth in Rain, the character, throughout. But here, in the second book in the series, Rain is still a lone wolf, hurting after the events of the first book, Rain Fall (my review).

The assassination at the heart of the first book was a CIA-sanctioned and approved hit. The half-American, half-Japanese Rain wants out of the CIA business. And maybe out of the whole business, employer be damned. But Tatsu, the smart as a whip, top guy in the Japanese equivalent of the FBI, isn't going to let an asset who owes him, like Rain, go into retirement. By giving Rain some insider knowledge about his own covert activities (the presence of many smart cameras throughout the country), Tatsu inveigles Rain into doing some culling of the local Yakuza.

This eventually brings Rain into direct opposition with Yamaota who is a thug in a suit, a man determined to ride the increasingly ineffective Japanese parliamentary system into control of the country. Even with the help of his friend Harry the hacker, Rain is in tough just to survive while trying to thwart Yamaota. It takes Rain, Harry and Tatsu to their limits, in one case beyond his limit, to achieve something of a stand-off victory at the end.

Hard Rain has everything physical you could want, but it's the cerebral side that really makes this work. Rain's paranoia infests itself in your head after you're finished reading it. Suddenly, you start looking around to see who's looking at you. You take different ways to work (in my case, sometimes I immediately go to my office next to my bedroom, sometimes I detour to the washroom before going there), so as not to establish a pattern. And ... well you get the drift.

Although not the best book in the series (the succeeding Rain Storm is), there's so much atmosphere in the book, so much about the Japan that hides behind the bright lights of Tokyo, so much action, it's not hard to rate this book a five-star one-night read.

No comments: