The Asian Reporter 19th Annual
Scholarship & Awards Banquet -
The Asian Reporter's
From The Asian Reporter, V15, #28 (July 12, 2005), page 11.
John Rain, still doing the worldís dirty work
By Barry Eisler
G.P. Putnamís Sons, 2005
Hardcover, 337 pages, $24.95
By Andrew J. Weber
Barry Eisler is surely a master of fiction ó and not just the written kind. In conjunction with the release of Killing Rain, Eisler has finally answered the heavy public speculation and come clean, confirming that he is indeed a former employee of the CIA and not just an attorney with a broad interest in Japan. He is also a self-proclaimed expert on various forms of martial arts and unarmed combat from around the world, such as judo, karate, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
This should come as no surprise to the many fans of the John Rain franchise, who have previously snapped up millions of copies of Rain Fall (2002), Hard Rain (2003), and Rain Storm (2004) in more than twenty different languages. The Japanese-American assassin-for-hire John Rain is clearly Eislerís alter ego, finding real-world applications for exotic methods of killing that even CIA agents rarely get to practice anywhere outside of the movies.
Killing Rain puts John Rain in a familiar position, hired by shady clients who are desperate to have a problem "taken care of" while keeping their own hands clean. The fact that the client turns out to be the Mossad and that the target is arms dealer Manheim Levi, a supplier to some of the most notorious terrorist groups around the world, is of little particular consequence. In Rainís world, the good and bad guys are entirely fluid, and are often differentiated only by the amount they are willing to pay.
Or so itís always been. But the body count Rain has racked up over the years has started to weigh on his conscience, leading him to inevitable questions about the right and wrong of his chosen line of work and the morality of target selection, which he always thought best left to others. These difficult issues suddenly become all too tangible when Rain finds himself unable to assassinate Levy in front of his son and botches the job, setting off a chain of events that turns Rain into both hunter and hunted in a fast-paced chase across much of Southeast Asia. Along the way, various friends and enemies from Rainís checkered past reappear, only complicating the proceedings.
Eislerís stylish and gritty look at the business of killing will be familiar to readers of the other John Rain books, along with the exotic locales, compelling fight scenes, and propulsive writing that carries the story from one set-up to the next, all signature marks of the series. First-time readers will be just as enthralled with the details of the first-person narrative, which could only have come from real-world knowledge. If Eisler had not come out of the closet as ex-CIA, one would certainly have to wonder just what he did in his spare time to be able to tell a story like this.
Strangely, however, some chapters switch to a third-person view, moderately distracting and an anomaly wisely absent from the previous Rain adventures. Yet this flaw is not enough to take away from the ultimate success of Killing Rain, a ripping good read that adds yet another dimension to the already fully realized John Rain character.
With all of the nations and interests he has represented and the endless environments he has operated in, John Rain just may be the perfect hero for the globalized world. The same might be said of Eisler himself, who has achieved worldwide success with his novels and whose latest work will no doubt only extend his reach. Perhaps one day soon Eisler will stop pretending he is a lawyer altogether and admit what he really is: a writer, and a wildly successful one at that.
Barry Eisler will visit the Pacific Northwest to present his new thriller. Events will be held July 19 at noon at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop (117 Cherry Street, Seattle), July 19 at 7:00pm at Borders Books & Music (708 S.W. Third Avenue in Portland), and July 20 at 7:00pm at Barnes & Noble Vancouver (7700 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver, Wash.). For information, call (206) 587-5737 (Seattle Mystery Bookshop), (503) 220-5911 (Borders), or (360) 253-9007 or (503) 460-9339 (Barnes & Noble Vancouver).