Winslow, Don - 'Satori'
This awesome novel has been produced as a prequel to the hugely popular SHIBUMI, written by Trevanian in the 1970s, about the deadly assassin Nicholai Hel. My sincere hope is that fans of SHIBUMI are not disappointed by this latest book about their hero, as it is simply magical. It grabs your attention right from the first page and is full of excellently developed characters that you are either instantly attracted to and want to succeed, especially Hel and his love, Solange, or immediately loathe and want to see defeated. The 450 pages of this highly addictive tale just whizzed past for me and reaching the end was a very sad moment, although the pressure started off pretty intense and ramped up to a screaming crescendo at the end, for a perfect finish.
We first meet Hel in the days before he becomes an assassin. He is spending time in solitary confinement, having previously been imprisoned for murdering his mentor in an honour killing to save him the agony of the gallows, and his American captors have a proposal for him. If he accepts his mission, and succeeds, he will earn his freedom. Unable to refuse, Hel is given a new identity, as French arms dealer Michel Guibert, and tasked with the assassination of Voroshenin: the Soviet Union's commissioner to China. Hel, a talented linguist and lover of the ancient Japanese game of Go, is lethally expert in unarmed combat and the perfect man for the job. The story takes him from Japan to China and finally to Vietnam. It introduces him to the very lovely Solange, who is to teach him the correct French accent for his character, as well as other typical French mannerisms so that he doesn't lose his cover. Hel plans all his moves, and predicts those of others, as though moving stones on the Go board. His aim is to succeed and escape to live in peace with Solange but the odds are definitely stacked against him.
Don Winslow is an established writer, although this is first time I have read anything written by him and I am very far from disappointed. SATORI is a simply excellent read and a highly recommended book.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
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