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 . . .
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.
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
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.