Bullet Train – Kotaro Isaka

A dark, satirical thriller by the bestselling Japanese author, following the perilous train ride of five highly motivated assassins—soon to be a major film from Sony

Nanao, nicknamed Lady Bird—the self-proclaimed “unluckiest assassin in the world”—boards a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka with one simple task: grab a suitcase and get off at the next stop. Unbeknownst to him, the deadly duo Tangerine and Lemon are also after the very same suitcase—and they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard. Satoshi, “the Prince,” with the looks of an innocent schoolboy and the mind of a viciously cunning psychopath, is also in the mix and has history with some of the others. Risk fuels him as does a good philosophical debate . . . like, is killing really wrong? Chasing the Prince is another assassin with a score to settle for the time the Prince casually pushed a young boy off of a roof, leaving him comatose.

When the five assassins discover they are all on the same train, they realize their missions are not as unrelated as they first appear.

A massive bestseller in Japan, Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller that fizzes with an incredible energy and surprising humor as its complex net of double-crosses and twists unwind. Award-winning author Kotaro Isaka takes readers on a tension packed journey as the bullet train hurtles toward its final destination. Who will make it off the train alive—and what awaits them at the last stop?

Book Info: Print length: 452 pages. Publisher: Vintage Digital. Publication Date: 1 April 2021

Kōtarō Isaka (伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.
In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

My Review:

This isn’t a book I would have normally chosen to read, however a fellow blogger raved about it on publication day and I popped it on my wishlist in April 2021 and when it was reduced to 99p in May 2021 I bought it, downloaded it to my over flowing kindle and promptly forgot about it until I saw a trailer on IMDB featuring Brad Pitt and then bumped it to the top of my tbr pile.

I recommended it to my sister and brother-in-law for their “one book a year” on holiday (don’t ask, it shames me that my blood relatives only read on holiday) and they really enjoyed it, so I started to read it.

You know that saying “lost in translation”?, well this book is so bonkers in English that I can’t imagine what it must be like in Japanese.

Take 5 deadly assassins, 1 suitcase full of money, 1 speeding train and several dead bodies, include enough mayhem to make the story veer into the absurd and Bullet Train will leave you breathless and amused.

Billed as a dark, satrical thriller, this book reminded me of “The Keystone Kops” meets “In Bruges” with a huge dash of slapstick, ridiculous dialogue and the odd accidental murder.

Fast paced, as you would expect for a book about the Bullet Train, short chapters, ridiculous characters and situations that you can’t help laughing at and an overall feeling of WTF have I just read? Never, did I think at my age I would be reading about Thomas the Tank Engine again.

I can see why this book has been made into a film and having watched the trailer, I can’t wait to see it myself.

Recommended if you need a bonkers book with fast action, fast dialogue and a fast train.

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