Sunday, 1 May 2011


It's the first of the month and for all you crime and mystery fiction lovers time for some excellence over at CRIMESQUAD.

My pleasure this month was to review the book shown above. Those mystery fans of a certain age will have come across the redoubtable Nicholai Hel through the work of the old master of thrillers, Trevanian and his novel “Shibumi” (1979). When I heard Don Winslow had taken up the baton I couldn’t have been more excited. The mantle of a legendary novelist is assumed up by one of the most exciting writers working in the genre today: what’s not to love.

Right, that’s you up to speed with the genesis of this particular book, but was it any good I hear you ask?

Absolutely fantastic. Loved it.

This book has everything the fan of the spy novel could ask for. High –octane action, fight  set-pieces as carefully choreographed as anything Jackie Chan put on the big screen and scenes that take us to almost every exotic location on the planet.

Hel, himself is a wonderful character. One of my favourites ever to run across the pages of a book. He is part Russian, part Japanese. He is a scholar and a linguist and an assassin who makes James Bond appear like a heavy-handed buffoon.

Winslow is a fine prose stylist and in this outing he demonstrates his versatility by adopting the more straight-forward approach of Trevanian. An approach that is more suitable to this sub-genre given the characters and locations.

One of the pleasures of Shibumi was Trevanian’s depiction of the eastern mind-set and Winslow proves he is equally adept at describing this. Satori blends the cultural heritage of Japanese society with Buddhist influences, set amid the oppressive politics of 1950's Maoist China and the chaos of Vietnam. 

Then for added flavour we have the running motif of life in the form of the Japanese board game of Go, a beautiful, deadly woman, Hel’s supernatural ability to sense people, and an hilariously melodramatic Basque dwarf who provides intelligence for our hero.

The result of Winslow’s effort to pay respect to the achievement of Trevanian, while bringing the character to life in the new century is nothing short of remarkable. Winslow's attention to historical detail is fascinating, and it's seamlessly stitched to a relentless plot which compels the reader onwards.

Satori is a world-class thriller; I defy any fan not to enjoy it. Until now Don Winslow has been the genre’s best kept secret, with Satori he is about to go mainstream. 


  1. Sounds great. I have heard of Winslow but haven't tried his books yet.

  2. Well, none of your recommendations has failed to please yet so I'll keep on trusting you. Sounds good.

  3. Ricky, the man is quality.

    Bill, that's me under pressure now.

  4. ah, unfortunately, crime and mystery is the only genre I really don't feel and like. I even used that as a condition for my publisher :) I do the translation only if it's not crime or thriller :)
    But I do know that crime has a lot of fans, not just in books, but also in TV shows.

  5. Not to worry, Dezmond. There's plenty of room for different tastes in this great big world of ours.