At the Sharpe End

Kenneth Sharpe's city is a gritty, fast-moving metropolis with its quirks and idiosyncrasies.
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I need to be upfront at the start and confess that Hugh Ashton is a recently acquired Facebook friend of mine, though we have not yet met. Also we are about the same age, attended Cambridge University at almost the same time, both came to Japan in 1988 and have been here ever since! Now I feel able to write the review. I don't tend to read many novels. My own writing focuses on Japanese history and particularly the life and letters of Sir Ernest Satow (1843-1929), a distinguished British scholar-diplomat who spent about 25 years in total in Japan. I have edited several books based on his papers, and these and three translations from Japanese to English are here on amazon. Anyway, this novel is beautifully written and highly plausible, capturing the life and lifestyle of long-term foreign residents of Japan with many telling and authentic details. It moves at a cracking pace and I have sped through its 407 kindle pages in a couple of days. This is not the sort of speed I usually manage, even with a historical novel set in Japan. What I particularly liked was the way we get to know each of the characters so well through their words and deeds. There are the four friends: Sharpe, his girlfriend Mieko, and the Indian couple Meema and Vishal, the latter with his peculiar overuse of the present continuous tense (e.g. "being" not "be") which is typical of Indian speakers of English. Then there are various shady characters and villains: Katsuyama the mad genius who creates the computer program which can predict the market three minutes in advance, Jon the drug-crazed and dangerous Englishman, Kurokawa and Ishihara of Tokyo's finest, Al Kowalski who loses his head in more than one sense, Major Tim Barclay of the British Embassy, Katsuyama's bitch-wife Tomiko, her gangster father and a few others. It is a compelling cast and they interact marvellously to create an extraordinary tapestry of lies, deceit, double bluff and intrigue stretching as far as Hanoi and Seoul with North Korea lurking menacingly in the background. This is great fun, a real cloak and dagger tale for the 21st century, and I strongly recommend it.

-- Ian Ruxton
Book Description:

Kenneth Sharpe is a British expatriate consultant living in Tokyo. A mysterious stranger, who claims to be hunted by the American security services, presses a box into his hand shortly before being discovered dead under the wheels of a train at Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku station.

Sharpe and his Indian friends discover there’s more in the Hello Kitty box than he was originally told, and before long, Sharpe’s life (not to mention his flat) is turned upside-down as he finds himself rubbing shoulders with some very strange people indeed.

His whirlwind adventure spans East Asia, and involves the security forces of at least four countries, including North Korea, mobsters, and beautiful (if dangerous) women.

Along the way, Ashton provides readers with a view of everyday Japan and Tokyo which is far removed from the cliché of “cherry blossom and kimono” and the mystic Orient. Kenneth Sharpe’s city is a gritty, fast-moving metropolis with its quirks and idiosyncrasies.

This edition contains a foreword by Tokyo resident Robert Whiting, best-selling author of Tokyo Underworld: the Fast Life and Hard Times of an American Gangster in Tokyo, and You Gotta Have Wa, etc.

Hugh Ashton (Author)
Dear Reader, author’s recently published book “At the Sharpe End” is now available on leading bookstores, get your copy now and help the author by writing a review of the book.
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