Sunday, 30 October 2016

Review: The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder

Title: The Devil of Nanking
Author: Mo Hayder
Publisher:  Grove Press
Pages: 363
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Horror

Grey has a lot to prove and even more to hide. A young Englishwoman obsessed with a past she cannot understand, she comes to Tokyo seeking a rare piece of film footage that has been lost for decades, showing a specific horrifying incident during the notorious 1937 Nanking Massacre. Some say the film never existed. Only one man can help Grey. A survivor of the massacre, he is now a visiting professor at the university of Todai in Tokyo. Immersed in his textbooks and wary of strangers, he will at first have nothing to do with her.

When Grey accepts a job as a hostess in an upscale nightclub catering to Japanese businessmen and wealthy yakuza, she meets a certain gangster who may be the key to her quest—an old man in a wheelchair surrounded by a terrifying entourage, rumored to rely on a mysterious elixir for his continued health. As the professor pressures Grey to find out more about the elixir, Grey’s housemate, a handsome, laconic American dilettante, becomes unnervingly fascinated with her and the troubling past that she has kept concealed from everyone else. Grey is faced with the serious dangers of charming her way into a circle of gangsters, master manipulators, and possible murderers. It’s a devil’s bargain—but who, really, is the Devil of Nanking?
I was left pretty speechless by The Devil of Nanking. It was absolutely horrifying, I actually teared up at the end.

The story follows the first person perspective of a troubled young woman, Grey - who has travelled to Tokyo because she has heard that a university professor there, Shi Chongming, has a film of the 1937 Nanking massacre; an event in history that she has become obsessed with for mysterious reasons that become clear by the end. Chongming at first denies the existence of such a film but then he admits to Grey that he will show her the film if she finds out some information for him about the local Yakuza boss, Fuyuki. In addition, many chapters are told in flashback to Chongming's POV in 1937, Nanking where he lived through the massacre.

The creepy atmosphere was one of my favourite things about this book. The creepy, dilapidated Japanese house that Grey lives in felt so eery and haunted. The seedy hostess clubs and the dangerous, dark underbelly of Japan added to the creeping unease that something terrible is going to happen at any moment. The slow build up of tension was just fantastically done.

The climax of the book honestly just destroyed me, Mo Hayder really explored the blackest evil of history, I was really emotionally affected by it and I almost wish that I didn't have those images in my mind. Absolutely horrifying.

This is the perfect book for readers who want a atmospheric creepy story set in Tokyo. A perfect read for Halloween or the fall/winter season in general.


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