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Book Review: SUMOTORI: A 21st CENTURY SAMURAI THRILLER by GP Hutchinson

BooksKristina PinoComment

A sumo wrestler. Really? A sumo wrestler?

Not just any sumo wrestler, but a yokozuna--a sumo grand champion of almost legendary status. His name is Tatsuyama, and the women love him. Actually, just about everybody loves him.

Why then does young detective Kobayashi Koji believe Tatsuyama's drop-dead-gorgeous girlfriend has framed him for the crime that gets him kicked out of competition? When Tatsuyama himself goes to ask her, he discovers she's dropped off the grid.

Follow Tatsuyama and Detective Kobayashi from Tokyo's glitziest shopping districts to Kyoto's most traditional gardens and find out why men like Tatsuyama are known as the last of the samurai.

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This book wasn't a hard sell - I love Japan enough to live here, so I'm usually willing to pick up books that get tossed my way and tie into the country or its culture in some form.

Sumotori is an adventure, and just plain fun. It follows the story of Tatsuyama, a sumo champ, who is set up by his girlfriend and suspended from competition. One detective is convinced of Tatsuyama's innocence and wants to uncover what he suspects is gangster activity behind the whole ordeal.

The book takes place entirely in Japan, throughout locations in Tokyo and even Kyoto. The author goes to pains to capture the "old and new" feel of Japan and paint a detailed picture of every park or building. One of the charms of coming to Japan, a country that many people assume is super technologically advanced and futuristic, is getting here and seeing beautiful traditional structures peppered in between 20-story modern office buildings. Sure, there are some parts of the country that exemplify this vision of the future, but mostly it's traditional, and colorful, and full of fax machines.

The language in the book is also rather interesting. Though the author is American, the dialogue has a bit of a "touch" to it that reminds me of reading Japanese comics. He also dropped in loads of Japanese terms and phrases, little things here and there, just in case the location descriptions hadn't already brought you over.

From my perspective, as a reader, it's always tough to add foreign languages to a book (whether they're real or made-up), because sometimes it's easier to just say what you mean in English. It can get in the way, or confuse, or take you completely out of the story when the goal from the author's standpoint was probably to emphasize the character's foreign-ness. I'm happy to report that Hutchinson struck a nice balance in this story, though. None of the Japanese terms or dialogue broke the rhythm, took me out of the story, or made me pause.

Sumotori is a quick and easy read. The main character is likeable (super likeable). The story moves at a steady clip, making it a reliable page-turner. It requires no knowledge of Japan's geography, of Sumo, or of anything else. There's romance. There's frustration. There are cheesy puns (and I love cheesy puns). There's a car chase. Just pick it up and have fun.

Cheers to GP Hutchinson for sending a copy of this book all the way over here for me to read and review. This was a great mix-in for my TBR pile and a fresh read in general (sumo, thriller genre, etc are not the usual in my bookshelf).

Bonus:

here's my book selfie with this title and what my immediate reaction after reading had been.