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Buy one of the following John Rain books from amazon.com:

'Rain Fall' (2002), by Barry Eisler

'Hard Rain' (2003), by Eisler


A 'Hard Rain' Is Gonna Fall

Menlo Park novelist Barry Eisler tracks his spy hero through Tokyo in second John Rain thriller


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ASSASSIN JOHN RAIN is "a freelancer, a straddler, connected to many worlds, but a part of none." Half Japanese and half American, he's never felt home in either society. But he sneaks around the Tokyo underworld, swilling expensive single-malt Scotch while on assignment to murder individuals and make it look like they died of natural causes. Hard Rain, Menlo Park author Barry Eisler's recent noir thriller set in Japan, is his second book about John Rain. Both Hard Rain and its predecessor, Rain Fall, could easily be travel guides to Tokyo neighborhoods, bars and restaurants. Several localities--Roppongi, Shinjuku, Shirokanedi and Asakusa--are described in detail.

Rain himself comes across as a lethal but strangely intriguing killer--one who grew up in two countries and was accepted in neither. Not since Nikolai Hel in Trevanian's 1979 espionage yarn Shibumi--an obvious influence on Hard Rain--have we seen the concept of the assassin as hero, born of mixed ethnicities but belonging to none. After years of hit jobs for shady folks in the CIA and the Japanese government, Rain has perfected the art of assassination, while making it look like the victim died naturally. As a result, Rain has many enemies and must live in constant countersurveillance mode, always watching his back. He has no choice.

However, Rain wants to give up the freelance assassin business. But certain people don't want Rain to retire and move to Brazil. Tatsu, his old rival from the Keisatsuscho--Japan's equivalent of the FBI--finds him and makes Rain an offer he can't refuse: For one last job, track down a murderous creature named Murakami and eliminate him. Murakami is a monster who runs violent fight clubs. His machinations, Tatsu tells Rain, are bent on making Japan's political system even more corrupt than it already is. He must be dealt with.

So, on a precarious adventure through smoky jazz clubs, hostess bars and other sordid atmospheric locales, Rain sets off to track down Murakami. In the process, he runs into an old flame, a jazz pianist named Midori. And he meets Naomi, a hostess bar girl whom he rescues from Murakami's control, sends her to Brazil and tells her to wait there for him. The novel is told in the first person, from Rain's perspective, and Eisler gives the reader an intense, close-up feel of noir Tokyo, the various cross hairs of the CIA and the Japanese mafia, and the mentality behind brutal murder. Eisler, who lives in Menlo Park and spent years in Tokyo working for the U.S. government, has created an alluring three-dimensional assassin in John Rain, one who will, I hope, stay around for quite some time.

Hard Rain, by Barry Eisler; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 342 pages; $24.95 cloth. Eisler appears at a signing event Friday (Aug. 1) at 7:30pm at Books Inc., 301 St., Mountain View. (650.428.1234)

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From the July 31-August 6, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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