Browne: Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn

book coverAustralian writer Marshall Browne establishes a convincing Japanese ambiance for his tenth novel, a dark, bloody riff on the familiar theme of a good cop breaking the law to achieve justice.

A long, dangerous, Tokyo Police investigation into a corrupt politician is abruptly shut down, days short of success. The squad is broken up and its leader, Inspector Aoki, sent on leave. A prominent journalist breaks the story shortly afterwards and is brutally murdered in response – and we haven’t even reached the end of the prologue.

Aoki’s boss unexpectedly sends him to a remote traditional ryokan or inn, supposedly for a rest cure. An unexpected snowstorm isolates the ancient, maze-like inn from visitors, telephone and electricity almost as soon as he arrives. Cut adrift from the twentieth century, the inn’s guests and staff spiral down into a claustrophobic nightmare of shadowy menace and sudden death. Aoki survives it to return to the city in renewed pursuit of the politician and his yakuza cronies.

If the makers of Crouching Tiger wanted to set a movie in our own times, they could do worse than look at Rendezvous for a script. With old feuds and crimes, high government officials, horrific violence and the deaths of most of the major characters the two have a lot in common. I won’t spoil the suspense by revealing more of the plot except to add that it is well constructed, unpredictable in progress but satisfyingly logical in retrospect.

Don’t be put off by the clichés of the first few pages: Rendezvous quickly develops into a fine, distinctive thriller.

Random House Australia $32.95

Review originally published March 2006,
added to this site October 2020