Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn 
Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late.

My Review:
Am I being unreasonable? Look, if there's a place name in your book title...Like, say, "Tokyo", I think it creates certain expectations in your readers. I mean, aren't I justified in believing that this book should be set in Tokyo and I should feel like it's set in Tokyo? First, it takes about 1/3 of the book to actually get to Tokyo. Yes, really, Violet spends the first 120 or so pages wandering/investigating in Seattle. Then when she finally gets to Tokyo, it doesn't really feel like she's in Japan. For the most part, the complete lack of "Japanese" atmosphere makes the book seem like it could be set in any large city with a side trip to the city's "Little Tokyo". Why? Violet spends most of the Tokyo visit either in a hotel room or in an office building. I mean, the first meal her dad has in Japan is Teriyaki Chicken with rice. REALLY.

This is the book's whole strategy to making you feel like you're in Japan... "Ohayou gozaimausu, green tea, tatami mat, sushi." Does it feel like you're in Japan or in a Japanese restaurant? Just because you throw in a few Japanese words and places does not mean you have made someone feel like they've taken a trip to Japan. And this book doesn't. There is barely any discernible difference between Seattle and Tokyo.

This is me through most of the book- especially the first third before Violet gets to Japan.


The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's basically readable...meaning it's good enough to finish. Anything else good? No. The characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts- misunderstood yet secretly talented teen girl for a main character, disinterested and distant dad, etc. And the relationships in the book didn't develop in any way that seemed realistic or natural. For example, Violet and her dad's relationship changed, but they spent very little time together. It seemed like character development was based on plot necessities (what the author needed the characters to do to move the book forward. It comes down to this, I should have gone onto YouTube and watched Japanese Game shows instead of reading this book. I at least would have been pleasantly entertained for a few hours.

Overall Rating: 2 stars
Genre Rating: 2 1/2 magnifying glasses
Tokyo Heist


  1. Ahahaha! Japanese game-shows are the best! Even if I don't understand what they are saying, but, still, it's pretty awesome! Have you seen Japanese pranks? They are hilarious. I forgot which one is good.

    Anyways! That was a disappointing review. I might like it more (who knows?) only because the first chapter had so many references that i got. Hmm, well, thanks for the review, anywho! :)

    1. I hope you like it better than I did. I also thought the depiction of Japanese people was "off". I grew up in Hawaii and I worked for a Japanese company as a teenager. (I used to be fluent in Japanese- speaking and reading.) And the depiction of the Japanese executives the dad worked for seemed off- oddly informal for Japanese of that generation to be. Especially with gaijin (non-Japanese).

  2. OMG!Lizard attack...what kind of show is that?? I am kinda creeped out just by watching it. Those poor girls!

    Anyways, good review. :)

    1. The lizard attack is from some Japanese game show. I guess the last girl who doesn't pull her head out of the hole wins. Kind of scary because that's supposed to be a Komodo dragon and I think that they have some kind of disgusting bacteria in their mouths and claws and you can get a nasty infection- sometimes stuff needs to be amputated...I'm surprised that no one got seriously maimed.

      In the pre-internet/Youtube days, we had friends who worked in Japan who used to bring us boxes of VHS tapes of Japanese game shows when they came back for visits. So, I kind of got addicted to them. Yay, for youtube!

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