Synopses & Reviews
A fierce, exquisitely dark novel that plunges us into post-World War II Occupied Japan in a Rashomon
-like retelling of a mass poisoning (based on an actual event), its aftermath, and the hidden wartime atrocities that led to the crime.
On January 26, 1948, a man identifying himself as a public health official arrives at a bank in Tokyo. There has been an outbreak of dysentery in the neighborhood, he explains, and he has been assigned by Occupation authorities to treat everyone who might have been exposed to the disease. Soon after drinking the medicine he administers, twelve employees are dead, four are unconscious, and the "official" has fled . . .
Twelve voices tell the story of the murder from different perspectives. One of the victims speaks, for all the victims, from the grave. We read the increasingly mad notes of one of the case detectives, the desperate letters of an American occupier, the testimony of a traumatized survivor. We meet a journalist, a gangster-turned-businessman, an "occult detective," a Soviet soldier, a well-known painter. Each voice enlarges and deepens the portrait of a city and a people making their way out of a war-induced hell.
Occupied City immerses us in an extreme time and place with a brilliantly idiosyncratic, expressionistic, mesmerizing narrative. It is a stunningly audacious work of fiction from a singular writer.
"Set in 1948 and based on a Japanese murder case, Peace's second novel in his Tokyo trilogy (after Tokyo Year Zero) is a tour de force. One afternoon, just after closing, a man posing as a health official arrives at a Tokyo bank. He gets the bank's employees to ingest poison by pretending to inoculate them against dysentery, then escapes with the bank's money. In Roshomon fashion, a number of disparate characters, including Murray Thompson, an American army doctor who's convinced the Japanese are lying about bioweapons experimentation, offer dramatically different perspectives on a horrific crime that claims 12 lives. By presenting these points of view through newspaper articles, police reports, and letters to a faraway spouse, Peace humanizes his characters and provides subtle insights into how they interpret the facts of the mass murder. This literary thriller will more than satisfy readers with a taste for ambiguity." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An extraordinary and highly original crime novel . . . This is a truly remarkable work. It is hugely daring, utterly irresistible, deeply serious and unlike anything I have ever read." New York Times Book Review
"Hypnotic postmodern noir of almost unrivaled fury . . . Expect to be enthralled and maybe amazed . . . Occupied City takes no prisoners . . . Hardly any writer can invoke T. S. Eliot and The Waste Land and expect to get away with it, but Peace does. He's an original and ambitious writer." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Like the novels of Stieg Larsson, Peace's books are fueled by political passion . . . Occupied City [is] genuinely hypnotic." Harper's
"This original amalgam of storytelling, history, and style compares to Haruki Murakami in its content and scope but challenges the reader to unravel the mystery in 12 distinct voices . . . Maintains the fast pace of a historical thriller." Library Journal
"Powerful and ambitious . . . Peace [is] immensely talented." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Peace doesn't simply examine wartime Japan's dark heart. He punches through the rib cage to rip it out, vivisect it, and write page after hallucinatory page in its hot, black blood . . . Occupied City is a gripping crime story, too . . . My copy of Occupied City won't be going anywhere near a second-hand bookshop." Independent (UK)
is so far from being a traditional whodunit that the identity of the murderer is really a secondary consideration, almost an afterthought; the puzzles with which Peace presents us go well beyond the question of who killed whom, or even why. An homage to Ryunosuke Akutagawa's stories Rashomon
and "In a Grove," on which Kurosawa's film was based, the novel is narrated in many different voices — thirteen in all." Evelyn Toynton, Harper's Magazine
(Read the entire Harper's review
About the Author
David Peace is the author of the Red Riding Quartet, GB84, The Damned Utd, and Tokyo Year Zero. He was chosen as one of Grantas Best Young British Novelists of 2003, and has received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the German Crime Fiction Award, and Frances Grand Prix du Roman Noir for Best Foreign Novel. In 2007, he was named as GQ (UK) Writer of the Year. He lived in Tokyo for fifteen years before returning to his native Yorkshire.