The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder

>> Friday, August 13, 2010

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder

Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 471
Challenges: None
Source: Purchased Used

The Short Version:
Two stories play out in 1990 Japan and 1937 China as a young Englishwoman and an aging Chinese scholar seek the same answers for different reasons.

Why I Read It:
I’d thoroughly enjoyed Mo Hayder’s first two books despite the disturbing nature of parts of them and am working my way through all of her books.

The Book
In 1937 Nanking China the invading Japanese army perpetrated a massacre the extent of which is still questioned and a source of controversy to this day.

In 1990 Japan a young Englishwoman named Grey with an odd past is in search of a film clip that is rumored to exist from the time of the Nanking massacre. She seeks out an aging Chinese professor who survived Nanking and clearly has secrets he wants to keep from her. Broke and with no place to stay, Grey meets up with a mysterious American man who gets her a job as a hostess in the nightclub where he works and a room where he lives.

Add to the mix a wheelchair bound elderly gangster with a scary nurse who may or may not have found the secret to immortality and let the stories spin and spiral together.

My Thoughts:
What I expect from Mo Hayder after reading her first two books is a good suspenseful book that may or may not have an easy to figure out mystery. The answer to the mystery is not necessarily the payoff in her books, because the trails through the story she weaves are just so intriguing, disturbing and nearly hypnotic that the journey might be better than the destination.

This is all that and more. The story moves back and forth between 1990 Tokyo and 1937 Nanking. As Grey tries to find out if the professor really has film she wants, flashbacks tell of his life before and during the Japanese takeover of Nanking. There are some fairly disturbing and grotesque elements, but Hayder’s books in general are not for the faint of heart.

The main characters all have secrets that are doled out a little at a time. About halfway through the book I’d figured out the likely ending, but I didn’t care. The characters are all damaged, some in ways that are explained and others are left a bit mysterious. The tension and suspense builds in the two main storylines with some seriously scary folk involved in the outcomes of both of them. The atmosphere is heavy and well developed in both settings and despite the moving back and forth I felt immersed in both 1937 Nanking and 1990 Tokyo.

It’s a disturbing, haunting and suspenseful book and if you can handle the tough parts, Hayder is a great storyteller.

Rating 4/5


Nicola 8/13/2010 8:16 AM  

Whoa! Fabulous review! This is one of my favourites of Hayder's, even though it is no easy read. Her standalone's are quite a bit different than the series. Wonder what you'll think of Pig Island.

Vickie 8/13/2010 8:01 PM  

I have this on Mt Git'r'Read, waiting for me to work up the nerve to read it. I loved THE BIRDMAN, have several of her books on the shelf. I will read this one day. Thank you for sharing your review.

Literary Feline 8/14/2010 11:04 AM  

I've only had the opportunity to read this particular book by Mo Hayder and I really do want to read more. This was so intense and complex . . . I am glad you liked it as well!

Mulholland Books (Minnie) 8/16/2010 12:44 PM  

This sounds great! I've actually become more interested in crime/thriller fiction with an international backdrop.

I just recently read DEATH OF A RED HEROINE by Qiu Xiaolon. It's this intriguing political/crime thriller about an Inspector and who investigates the murder of one of the Chinese communist party's 'model workers.' Once it is discovered that the primary suspect is the son of a high-ranking official in the party, his superiors go to great lengths to halt his investigation. It's a bit long but it provides an incredible introduction to Chinese Politics.

Also, quick thanks for leaving a comment on the Mulholland Books website. We're having an article posted everyday and it seems you enjoy this kind of fiction! Looking forward to seeing you around and contributing to the discussion in the future!


SuziQoregon 8/25/2010 7:44 PM  

Nicola: thanks! I agree it's not an easy read, but such a story. I'm looking forward to Pig Island - it looks interesting.

Vickie: this is so very different from Birdman, but still very Mo Hayder in that it's a story that draws you in at the same time it nearly repels you.

Literary Feline: that's exactly what I like about her books. They are intense and comples. Good to hear you liked this one too.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

I do moderate comments on posts older than 14 days in order to control spam. I will approve your legitimate comments as soon as I can.

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