Bullet Train (20 Books of Summer #3)


Kimura was an alcoholic. But, when his six year old son was pushed off the top of a department store building by a student, he became sober and determined to do anything possible to help his son who lay in the hospital on a respirator. Now he is held hostage on the bullet train by the student who pushed his son.

Lemon, who likes Thomas the Tank Engine, and Tangerine are two idiots who were given directions to rescue Minegishi’s son while bringing the ransom money in a small black suitcase. They were to rescue the boy, and bring back the ransom money, which seemed simple enough to them. Except, one of them put the suitcase of money in the luggage compartment, and when he went to retrieve it discovered the case is missing.

Nanao, who professes perpetually bad luck, wrestles a man named Wolf on the train. Nanao tries to protect himself as the train unexpectedly lurches, and Wolf’s neck twists. Suddenly he is dead, and Nanao props him up in a seat as though it will appear he still lives.

Such is the opening of the novel, a rapid-fire chain of events where men interact and each one’s plan is thwarted. Then, I learn of the background behind each story, and what seemed like trite action from a film becomes more meaningful.

It seems that each one is held by the power wielded over them by the ruthless Prince Satoshi, or just the Prince. A young schoolboy, with features making him seem soft and almost feminine, he is actually the most evil character of them all. He has no conscience and actually enjoys both manipulating and hurting others.

The Prince turns to looks out the window, just as a Tokyo-bound Shinkansen hurtles past in the opposite direction, so fast it’s nothing but a blur. The whole train trembles. He feels a quiet thrill at the overwhelming speed and force. Against a giant metal object traveling at more than two hundred kilometers an hour, a human being would be powerless…And I’m just as dangerous. I may not be able to move at two hundred kilometres an hour, but I can destroy people just the same. A smile appears, unbidden.

Although the book read more like an action film than a novel, I found myself intrigued. I had to read on to discover the connection between these men, and the powerful rich Minegishi who had hired them. I read to see if the Prince would reign or succumb to power stronger than his.

(A photo I took of the Shinkansen while in Tokyo, 2018.)

Kotaro Isaka is a bestselling and award-wining writer who is published around the world. He has won the Shincho Mystery Club Award, Mystery Writers of Japan Award, Japan Booksellers’ Award, and the Yamamoto Shugoro Prize. Bullet Train is his US debut. It will be published by Abrams Books on August 3, 2021.

4 thoughts on “Bullet Train (20 Books of Summer #3)”

  1. I tried this last month but gave up because I found it confusing. It probably was not the right choice of reading material for late at night when the brain is sending signals it’s time to sleep

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    1. I can easily understand becoming confused with all the characters, and the switching between them without much information. In fact, I found it a little tedious. (Surely this will make a better film than novel!) But, I wanted to keep reading to see how it all turned out. This is certainly not one of those Japanese novels with atmosphere or magical realism. But, it did have an intriguing plot. Also, because I have ridden on the Shinkansen myself, there was some personal connection for me. I could visualize the connected cars, and the musical bells warning people it was time to take off. Fortunately, we had no killers on our trip!😉

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  2. M, I just heard about this one and wrote down the title on my TBR list. I’m so glad you posted about it. Thanks! I’m really looking forward to it now 🙂 Cheers! xx

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