#BlogTour #BookReview - Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler

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...

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Last Stop Tokyo today. James Buckler's debut novel is a riveting thriller and one I'll be recommending to anybody who likes their books to feature the darker, seedier side of life. I wasn't immediately gripped, this was a book that took a little while to really get its claws into me, I found the flashbacks at the start a little confusing and it took me a bit of time to decide how I felt about the characters. As the novel progressed though I found myself racing through the pages and when I'd finished reading it I had to take to Twitter to express my feelings about the ending (but more of that later!)

I have to admit there weren't any characters who I would want as friends, even the two protagonists, Alex and Naoko are often far from likeable. At best their actions can be described as frustrating but they are often impetuous and selfish. The fact that I cared about what happened to them is an indicator of the author's skill, flawed they may be but I was still invested in their lives. As the book progresses and more is revealed about their pasts their actions become clearer, they are damaged people who are seemingly drawn both to each other and to rash decisions that have devastating repercussions for them both.
Alex is working as a teacher in Tokyo, trying to keep his head down after losing his previous job in a law firm in London following a fatal accident. It seems though that trouble follows him and he finds himself accused of a crime he didn't commit, bad enough for a local man but harder still for a foreigner in a country where even the simplest of interactions can be fraught with cultural misunderstandings. Alex may be irritating at times but he's a good person who finds himself mixed up with some very bad people. This for me is where the novel really became enthralling with the creeping sense of dread that things are going to get a lot worse for Alex. Naoko is an enigma, the revelations from her past go some way to explaining her behaviour but she remains unpredictable throughout, as does her relationship with Alex.
The book focuses on the darker side of Tokyo, this is far from a tourist advert but James Buckler has brought the underbelly of this busy, chaotic, fascinating city to life. The time he has spent Japan and his obvious connection with the country pay dividends here and his vivid descriptions of the sights and sounds of the city, the food and the often strict customs that must be upheld brings a rich flavour to the novel.
So, back to that ending... No spoilers from me, suffice to say that the tension steadily builds towards a breathtaking conclusion. This is a memorable debut, violent and often bleak but imbued with a sharp wit that stops it becoming depressing. I'm not sure what James Buckler has planned next but I'm really looking forward to reading it.
My grateful thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater for inviting me onto this blog tour. You can follow it here;

Last Stop Tokyo is published in the UK by Doubleday and Transworld Books.

About the Author

James Buckler grew up in the South West of England and currently lives in London though he has lived in America and Japan, where he worked as an English teacher. 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.