Rain Fall and Hard Rain by Barry Eisler, Putnam 2002/2003, 308/337pp.
Laurie put these books in my suitcase when I visited New York last week. She knew that thrillers about an assassin in Japan would be right up my alley. I enjoyed both books. They are straightforward, make no horrible cultural gaffes, have a modicum of suspense, and are obsessively accurate about location (there is even an author's note apologising for relocating a fruit shop on Dogenzaka). Such competence is rare enough. And Eisler works some reasonable comments about Japan's economy and government into the CIA plot. The second book cites the interesting but terribly depressing Dogs and Demons as a resource.
Not everything is to my taste: there is a lot about martial arts and jazz and single-malt whiskies, none of which interest me. And there is much too much about the craft of following and losing people (the author worked for the CIA himself, he says). Reading both books back-to-back overwhelmed me with easy murders, and the female characters are sexy but not much else. The computer-geek friend was promising as a character, but he gets killed off. The plots are linear, and the atmospheric facts are mostly about bars. I prefer the girly version of the half-breed sleuth.
The ultimate bad guy in the second book is named Murakami Ryu, also the name of an author of some seamy Japanese novels. Coincidence or in-joke?