Grey finds herself on a professor’s doorstep in Japan. Grey is sure Shi Chongming has something from the Nanking massacre that she wants and she has traveled all the way from England to see it. Grey and professor Shi Chongming strike a deal- he will give her what she seeks if she finds something for him. What Grey doesn’t know is that to keep her end of the deal she must tangle with the yakuza, a kind of Japanese mob. The Devil of Nanking is a mix of mystery, history, and a whole lot of violence.
This book is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it mention the horrors of the massacre but it also deals with current day abuse and violence including murder and rape. That aside, it’s pretty good. This is a thriller, but it isn’t the most fast paced one I’ve ever read. The narrative jumps back and forth between Grey’s present day and Shi Chongming’s past in Nanking. Both are very interesting arcs, but if there is a cliffhanger in one point of view it can be frustrating to have to read a slower point of view for a while. Still, both viewpoints are well woven together. Also, I am no expert on Japan or Japanese culture, but from what I know the subject matter is correct and respectfully portrayed.
Grey is a very grey character. She has had a hard life and made some bad decisions. I was not convinced by all of Grey’s backstory though. Throughout the novel she remains mysterious and since her part of the book is told in first person it was difficult to connect with her. The other characters are all quite good. There is Shi Chongming which we get to know mainly through his first person story of Nanking, Jason, the strange man that helps Grey make it in Japan, the humorous Russian twins who live in Grey’s building, and Mama Strawberry, a powerful business owner who obsesses over Marilyn Monroe. The colorful cast adds heart to a bleak story and both the plot and the characters are difficult to forget.