Daniel Fierman
January 23, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

It’s New Year’s Eve and Tokyo reeks of lust and slime. Kenji is an expert on the subject: Only 20 years old, he uses his knowledge of the city’s seedy Kabuki-cho district and its underground sex scene to make a buck as a tour guide for visiting gaijin. And he’s doing fine. Until a hulking, sweating, lying American named Frank shows up and starts killing. Murakami has won some nice press here for his unflinching look at violence and the underbelly of modern Japan; there’s no doubt that it’s deserved. His latest oozes darkness and ambiguity and reads like a cross-Pacific bullet train.

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