Tokyo Year Zero

Hard-boiled experimental post-war story

David Peace is an English crime writer living in Japan. He has previously written the Red riding trilogy, which has also been filmed. I knew it would be hard-boiled but I was not really prepared for this. The book portrays the police commissioner Minami in Tokyo in 1946 that have a difficult murder case on his hands. The fictional murder case is apparently  based on a real murder mystery.

Disturbing elements or stylistic ingenious?

This book has been praised by many for the stylistic style but I must admit I found it very difficult to absorb. The style is extremely demanding. Let me give you an example from the book.
“Two very young men from the station in Atago are waiting for us in ill-fitting and dirty uniforms. They bow and salute, they come to greet us and apologize, but I do not hear a word they say.  Tone. Ton-ton, Ton-ton, Ton-ton. Ton-ton … (that´s how it was translated in Swedish) The Constables lead us off the road away from the hammering and into the temple area. Giant scorched trees, the roots of the sky ….
There is not much of Zojojitemplet left after the bombings in may last year
Charred branches and fallen leaves …
The “Ton-Ton”, is incredibly annoying and is there all the time and as we follow Minamis actions, his thoughts constantly interrupts the flow of the story.  It is demanding but at the same time it gives the reader a different dimension from the usual crime novels with Minamis inner frustration, headaches and paranoia, transferred and conveyed in a unique way.

Hard-boiled realism

This book is so far from an Agatha Christie thriller-one can get. I am shocked at how hard life was for the Japanese population after World War II. Red riding trilogy is certainly hard-boiled, but this is 10 dimension worse. It is dirty everywhere, poverty everywhere, corruption everywhere. It is absolutely …. awful ….

Love or hate

Either you like this book or you don´t. I didn’t like it but on the other hand the hard-boiled genre is not my favorite genre. I find it hard to reconcile myself with the horrible attitude or women, or rather the woman’s non-role in the story. This is a man’s world. Yet I had to  finish reading it just so I could find out how the murder story ended. A big plus for the map of Tokyo in the beginning and the glossary at the end.


This book is just the first in a trilogy of Tokyo. The second and third book are called, Occupied City and Tokyo Regained.

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