“Five killers. One train journey. But who will survive? The original and propulsive thriller from a massive Japanese bestseller.
Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura’s young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard.
Nanao, the self-proclaimed ‘unluckiest assassin in the world’, and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa). Bullet Train is published in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bullet Train but that has in no way influenced my review.
First of all I have to say that I adore Japanese crime fiction and this book came onto my radar last year when it was first published but I was so over subscribed that I couldn’t squeeze it in. I was gutted as it sounded just my cup of kombucha. At the start of 2022 I signed up to the ‘12 books in 12 months’ challenge where 12 friends recommend a book to be read by the end of the year – Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka was suggested by the fabulous Raven Crime Reads. So of course, it went on the list. You can see the other eleven books that were recommended if you scroll down to the end of this post. I couldn’t wait to get to this one and what a ride it was!
Boarding a train has never been so deadly! When the bullet train leaves Tokyo heading for Morioka little do the passengers know that in their midst are five highly skilled killers. Satoshi is a schoolboy, all sweetness and light to his superiors but really a psychopath in a school uniform. His use of control and coercion and his complete lack of remorse make him a deadly adversary. Kimura is on a mission to track Satoshi down and make him pay for what he did to his young son, no matter what the cost. But they are not the only two killers on board this high-speed train. As the train hurtles towards Morioka the clock ticks down. Time is running out for these trained assassins as not everyone will make it to Morioka alive…
Oh my goodness, Bullet Train was so much fun! What an immersive, high-speed thrill ride the author has created for his readers, featuring five thoroughly engaging characters. All of them, apart from Satoshi, are likeable – although you know you shouldn’t warm to them really. They are trained killers after all! There is much comic relief provided by the brilliant Tangerine and Lemon. Lemon’s obsession with trains, in particular Thomas and Friends, had me giggling to myself at frequent intervals. Bullet Train felt vey different to all of the other ‘locked room’ mysteries I’ve read in the past (even the Japanese ones!) and I really appreciated it.
The plot moves along swiftly, very much like the bullet train itself, with lots of interesting plot points and changes of direction. I wanted to steam through this novel to find out who survived but instead I took my time to enjoy and savour the interactions, the building tension and twists and turns. There is very little let up. There is always something happening and it’s always attention grabbing.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Bullet Train is a unique and clever thriller which is perhaps a little bonkers at times, a little hard to believe maybe, but I didn’t care one jot. I was entertained from start to finish and I know I will never read another book like this again. It’s definitely quirky in the best way possible. I want to say to all crime fiction fans, you must read this book but I’m aware that it probably won’t be for everyone. If you’re a fan of translated fiction however, make sure you get yourself a copy and make sure you read it before the movie is released this summer. I, for one, will be first in the queue with my popcorn and slushie as I CANNOT WAIT to relive the Bullet Train experience once more. I thoroughly enjoyed Bullet Train and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author soon. Recommended.
I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bullet Train. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa was published in the UK on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |
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.
Sam Malissa holds a PhD in Japanese Literature from Yale University. He has translated fiction by Toshiki Okada, Shun Medoruma, and Hideo Furukawa, among others.