What makes a legendary assassin? For John Rain, it was the lessons of love, war, and betrayal he learned in Tokyo in 1972.
Fresh from the killing fields of Southeast Asia, Rain works as a bagman under the watchful eye of his CIA handler, delivering cash to corrupt elements of the Japanese government. But when a delivery goes violently wrong, Rain finds himself in the crosshairs of Japan’s most powerful yakuza clan. To survive, Rain strikes a desperate deal with his handler: take out a high-profile target in the Japanese government in exchange for the intel he needs to eliminate his would-be executioners.
As Rain plays cat and mouse with the yakuza and struggles to learn his new role as contract killer, he also becomes entangled with Sayaka, a tough, beautiful ethnic Korean woman confined to a wheelchair. But the demands of his dark work are at odds with the longings of his heart - and with Sayaka’s life in the balance, Rain will have to make a terrible choice.
©2014 Barry Eisler (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
I was a little ... hrm ... hesitant about this book when I learned that it was a back-story book instead of a chronologically "next" in the series book. That seems to be kind of a theme with some of my favorite authors at the moment - going back to a time before the main character in a well established series has fully become the character that I as the reader have become attached to. It is an interesting idea, but one that I think has a lot of potential for disaster, so yeah ... a little trepidation going into this book.
Having said all of that, I LOVED this book. I liked the fact that it was presented as the current incarnation of Rain sharing reflections on his past rather than actually lifting the reader out of the established time-line and completely relocating them into the past. Some of the reflective asides made by Rain during the telling were quite amusing. "I was hard in about zero point two seconds. Yeah, 20 years old."
The first time I picked up a John Rain/Barry Eisler book it was because I was curious to see how an author would go about having a hired murderer as a sympathetic protagonist. I was hooked from that first book, and if I hadn't already been sold on the idea, with Graveyard of Memories I am absolutely sold on the idea of assassin as sympathetic protagonist.
Not only did Graveyard of Memories serve to flesh out an established and already well-loved character, but it was a good story all on it's own. I always enjoy the particular recipe that Barry Eisler has for blending the setting, the action, the characters and the intrigue. This book did not disappoint. The action sequences were exciting, the machinations of the antagonists convoluted, the romantic tension alluring, the cast of characters engaging and the journey from chapter one through the end of the book compelling.
I am so glad that Barry Eisler has decided to narrate his own books. I have completely fallen in love with his voice. After listening to Graveyard of Memories, I find myself wanting to go back and re-listen to the rest of the series again - only this time with the Barry Eisler narrations instead of the original studio hired narrations. He displays all of my favorite qualities of a narrator. He has good pacing, distinct voices, including accents, and is emotive without being over the top and obnoxious or dragging the listener from the story. I'd listen to *anything* Barry Eisler should choose to narrate, but it is particularly compelling knowing that he is breathing audible life into his own creations.
If you are a fan of the series, this book will not disappoint. If you haven't yet tried the series you should start at book 1, but this isn't a terrible place to begin either. It would work as a stand alone story and would not ruin or spoil any of the previous books should you then decide to pursue them.
Overall I definitely think that this book is and was well worth the credit.
Let me explain the title I chose for this review, “The real John Rain returns”. The John Rain series books one through six were basically about a lone assassin. A man who does not have access to all the cool toys that the “James Bonds” and other government agents have. John Rain always used items that were available to the common man, like Google Maps and iPhones to get the job done. Then the book The Detachment came out and all of a sudden John Rain has access to all these cool communication gear and other awesome high tech toys. I felt like this was a sad departure from the Rain series, and was thrilled that the author returned to one of the main aspects of what in my humble opinion made the character John Rain great.
All the other books John Rain is a cold calculating killer. He is the master chess player that can see ten moves ahead of everyone else. His use of well honed tactics and skills allows him to eliminate targets with the precision of a laser beam. In this book Rain is young and not the calm and cool killer, but a bit of a hot head and very impetuous who relies on luck as much as sound tactics. At times I was asking myself “how lucky is this guy”? But with each stroke of luck you see the clumsy killer begin to take the form of the smooth killer of the future. The old proverb of “The only difference between a wise man and a fool, is the fools mistakes teach him nothing.” Is a recurring theme throughout the book, many times Rain makes mental notes never to do something in the future and if you have read the other books in the series you know these were lessons learned. Even this early in Rain’s career he is a master at “Grey Man” tactics, being able to melt into a crowd do something unpleasant and just disappear. These things are part of what make the book so interesting to read. I am not really sure about the love story aspect of the story and what I think of it. Part of me understands and sees how it is an iatrical part of the book. But sometimes it seems like it lasts so long I had to check to see if my iPod had accidentally jumped over to 50 Shades of Grey.
The plot twists are done masterfully and Mr. Eisler really did an amazing job with this story. The book had me going thinking “Holy Crap” and then ten minutes later laughing until I almost pissed my pants. As always I am looking forward to his next book…..although this time I am looking forward to it with anticipation, not with the prayers of redemption.
Barry Eisler deserves an award for the subplot in this book. Being the parent of physically disabled daughters I was blown away by his interpretation and insight into the difficulties and obstacles (environmental and human) that block the lives of those with disabilities. I was also very impressed with him for having John Rain fall in love with her and go out of his way to convince her that there was nothing wrong with her and show her that she was still desirable. The main plot for me was almost secondary, and I do not read chic lit! I will say though that the thriller part of this story was fantastic as well. I liked the way it was written in the first person, as a mature adult reflecting on his life.
The first love scene between Rain and Sayaka AND the scene where Rain dressed as a monk revealed to his CIA contact that he was indeed still alive. But I think the one I will never forget was when he was stealing the body from the morgue and had to hide while a hospital employee came in for their own rather sick pleasures. Afterwards he thinks to himself that he was glad he only had to hear it and not see otherwise he would have had to bleach his eyes. I have never laughed so hard while listening to a book.
PERFECT! Don't know how he would be with another author's work but he reads his own flawlessly. I'm a fan!
I read all of Barry Eisler Books, this is definitely up there in terms of interest, violence and story. I enjoyed it very much and finished in two days. Keep them coming.
Use books for escape- typically avoid nonfiction. Enjoy action-romance, espionage/military, sci-fi. Skilled writing is most important.
Eisler writes “Memories” from John Rain’s view point, explaining his fall into assassination as a profession. After the Vietnam war, Rain stays in Asia, living in Tokyo without belonging or meaning; but, for a 20 year-old lacking education, he lives comfortably. Not having yet developed his calculated constraint seen in previous books, Rain reacts rashly to three punks and accidentally kills a relative of a powerful clan. Rain’s lack of experience and relative naiveté are challenges he needs to overcome to stay alive and turn the tables on a growing list of enemies, including the Japanese government and his own employer. While in hiding, Rain becomes romantically involved with a Korean woman, whom he unwittingly places in danger. As the publisher’s summary says, Rain learns, “lessons of love, war, and betrayal.”
As always, Eisler’s descriptions of Tokyo are vivid without unnecessary details or wordy descriptions. It brings together so many elements of good storytelling and good writing that I am grateful to another listener for highly recommending Barry Eisler’s books.
This series reminds me of Child’s Jack Reacher series. I like Child’s writing, but I do not understand the reason for the Reacher series’ success over that of the Rain series. Perhaps the Rain series’ isn’t appreciated as much because its premise is assassination; or, perhaps its fuzzy distinction between good and evil is unappealing; or, perhaps unlike Reacher, Rain’s remoteness is not a choice, rather a result of childhood experiences as a Japanese-American. All of which are pluses for me. Also, Eisler’s character development is deeper; the scenery is much richer and more exotic; its research is extensive; and, the plots are drawn from espionage and current events.
Eisler narrates this himself – and does so excellently.
Overall, I highly recommend this series.
This is the prequel to the other seven John Rain tales. This novel is similar in pace and tone to the earlier Rain novels, seems that Eisler reveals much of his own personal experience in this novel which made the story very realistic and intimate, and we thank the author for sharing of himself and for his hard work in both writing and narration and look forward to his future novels.
LA Magic Man
Yes, the character development was terrific.
John Rain. This book takes you back to show how john rain became JOHN RAIN!
The girl in the wheelchair. Empathetic and well performed.
The end, about the girl in the wheelchair... but i dont want to spoil it.
When I first started this book and it started with a backstory, I hoped this wasn't an entire backstory novel because those tend to be lame fillers. Well, it was and I was wrong. Not only is this a great way to get new readers interested in the exploits of John Rain, it is a great action story with good pacing. I enjoyed reading about Rain's predicaments and how these early episodes shaped who he turned into. While I was interested in finding out what has happened since the last book (The Detachment), this story proved to be a great read and not lame filler. The story doesn't rely on previous knowledge of the characters and if can be an introduction into Eisler's other books about Rain. Recommended for people interested in action books in the vein of Vince Flynn or Daniel Silva. For those who may be turned off by a back story novel, give it a shot and be surprised.
I have read the complete John Rain series. I am enthralled with Eilser's writing. The details, storyline, character development never lets me down. I admire his success in changing the names of his books and most of all doing his personal narration. He is one of the best narrators that I have listened to. I even downloaded the newer versions, with his narration, of the previously purchased old releases! I have now read the Ben Treven books! Thank you, Mr. Eisler and Audible for the new versions with personal narration.
This is the back story concerning how John Rain became a hired assassin. To be fully appreciated, the reader needs to have knowledge of Rain's methods and later life which will only be gained from reading several of the earlier books in the series.
This book deftly guides the reader through Rain's earliest development as an assassin. It puts in perspective his relationship with Tots, his need for emotional distance (his first true love), Rain learning to be proactive and brutal and the "rules" under which he accepts assignments. Rain's relationship with Tots as well as his first love experience creates a very complex character who is at once a brutal killer but also a man with great empathy and a longing for a different life. Maybe a bit of Dexter as an assassin rather than a psychopathic serial killer. The story integrates very well with the other Rain novels. It ends leaving the reader to wonder about the decade between the events of this novel and Rain's later emergence as a for hire killer. I hope Barry Eisler writes a book about the decade as a mercenary. This is an enormously entertaining book.
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