Last Stop Tokyo- Blog Tour

The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you’ve suffered enough, you realize it’s only the beginning.

 Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he’s made and the people he’s hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp.

 After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom. There’s always the chance it’ll get worse . . .

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 There’s something about novels about fellow English teachers that I really love and Alex’s tale describing in vivid detail exactly where a yearning for escape can lead you held my attention to the very last page. The eyecatching front cover has the underground maps leading your eye in circles and this is exactly how you’ll feel as you follow Alex –  who has no idea how far he will be led in his quest for an anonymous escape from the mistakes that he’s made in his past.

I think that James Buckler has done a good job of controlling exactly how much we know as this compelling debùt novel unfolds and this is a really skilful technique, as it certainly made sure I kept turning the pages in my quest to find out what exactly was driving Alex Mallory and exactly how far he would be led in his escape to Tokyo.

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I have always wanted to visit Tokyo and Buckler uses this beautifully realised setting as almost a character in its own right. The traffic, the history, the lure of the bright lights and the seamy underbelly are all vividly depicted and we see it with Alex as somewhere that seems to promise escape but can actually seduce its visitors into losing more of themselves than they actually manage to find. 

 Alex, his friend Niro and the mysterious and compelling Naoko collide in Tokyo where Alex is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. His disorientation in the extremely rigid and impenetrable maze of Japanese customs and social morés is an added complication and we experience the sensation of being at odds with your environment and never quite knowing who to trust. Is Naoko exactly who she says she is or could it be that Alex isn’t the only person in this relationship with more to his past than he is prepared to reveal?

 I enjoyed the slow dance where we share that feeling of there being much beneath the surface and the occasional glimmers of what might be going on definitely made fore a page-turning read.  Honour, loyalty and trust are all dealt with in this engrossing novel and it was an exciting read involving yakuza, fatal accidents, prison, secrets and lies. I read this on a wet dreich Sunday afternoon and lost myself in a fast-paced world where a wrong step or misjudgement could really have serious implications.

I also loved the mysterious Naoko and was entirely convinced by her as a character, even though Buckler keeps her shadowy and enigmatic. I wanted to peer behind the mask almost as much as Alex did and definitely enjoyed the increasing tension as we are led with him into a dark, mysterious and dangerous world where he – as a foreigner or gaijin – is definitely out of his depth.

 This is the kind of story which will have you turning the pages long into the night to find out if your suspicions about the ending are correct. I always avoid spoilers, so if you want to know more you’re going to have to buy it for yourself

BUY IT HERE

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It looks fantastic in my latest #OnTheShelfie and it’s definitely attracted a lot of attention from visitors as it looks great up there on my shelf. It is the kind of book that you could take on holiday and share with your husband or wife as it would have elements that would keep many different readers engrossed. I’d like to thank my favourite book picker Anne Cater for asking me to take part in this blog tour and thank my lucky stars that she knows just how to keep my mailbox full to the brim with brilliant reads.

 

Writer On The Shelf

 James Buckler grew up in the South West of England and currently lives in London. In the past he lived in America and Japan, where he worked as an English teacher, providing inspiration for Last Stop Tokyo. He studied Film at the University of Westminster and worked in film & TV for many years, most notably as a post-production specialist for MTV and BBC Films. Last Stop Tokyo is his debut novel.

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The Unquiet Dead – Blog Tour

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One man is dead.

But thousands were his victims.

Can a single murder avenge that of many?

Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?

This morning, writing this blog post in the wake of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the last few days, I really found myself wishing that there were more men like Esa Khattak. A man with clear eyes and a cool head; a man who, no matter how harrowing the events he has had to face, can look forward with calmness, authority and a sense of optimism.

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans, and it shows – though she wears her learning lightly. This gripping, fascinating and harrowing read never feels like a lecture or a series of facts in search of a story – it educates whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of  Ausma’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if her research has merely found its way into a novel.

The fab CrimebookJunkie hosted a guest slot from @ClaireKreads and I definitely agreed with her views about the way that it resonated so strongly with another fabulous novel from 2017 -Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson: Both of these reads really challenge the reader with their harrowing depiction of human suffering – yet at the same time have such a strong narrative tow that you can’t put them down and learn a lot along the way.

I think that I personally preferred The Unquiet Dead: its quiet dignity in revealing the most profound human suffering sometimes left me speechless with horror and I felt the need to press it onto my friend Lorna immediately as I desperately wanted someone to talk about it with. We are off soon on a long drive so that we can unpick it to our hearts’ content and mull over some of the things that we’ve learned as a result.

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I have read many books with a background of war and conflict at their heart, but few have packed such an emotional punch as this one. Khan never once lets overwritten, cluttered prose or gratuitous lingering on horror to impede the elegant beauty of her writing, and it is all the more powerfully moving as a result. The clean and simple style juxtaposes strikingly with the unfeasible brutality that she is describing and actually made me ‘step away’ from the text several times as a result to get an emotional ‘breather’.

Like Feargal Keane’s essays about his time in Rwanda, what this novel never allows you to forget is that that this actually happened. Although this is a novel, the events that you are reading about definitely happened to someone and I think that Khan balances this fine tissue of truth and fiction perfectly. No one reading this book could possibly come away unscathed by it and it’s been a hard book to follow as I find myself continuously thinking back to it and thinking about the fates of some of its characters.

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of The Unquiet Dead – suffice to say that the skilful way that Khan weaves the present day murder mystery and detective team of Khattak & Getty with the harrowing events of the Balkan conflict is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like we are drowning in male/ female detective teams with complicated back stories but this is a pleasing alliance with two very different points of view which collide pleasingly and create plenty of room for their relationship to develop (hopefully) in subsequent adventures.

The Unquiet Dead is a stunning debut and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it engages the reader and contains a cast of characters that you not only believe in but actively want to believe are real people with real lives that you wish you could meet. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Getty and Essa Khattak do next. I’m hooked.

 

 

 

Author On The Shelf

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Ausma Zehanat Khan

 

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her widely acclaimed second novel, The Language of Secrets, was published in 2016. Among the Ruins, her third mystery was published in February 2017. She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning October 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives.

A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms. Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.

Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.

Ms. Khan practised immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband. (bio from the author’s site)

 

Thank you so much to No Exit Press and the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me on this Blog Tour in return for my unbiased and honest review.

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Buy The Unquiet Dead here – and you’re in luck as No Exit Press are currently offering a fab 50% off