Reviewed by Jim Napier
Nick Wilkshire’s third installment in the Charlie Hillier Foreign Service series finds the hapless consular officer confronting yet another legal and political quagmire that will test, among other things, his ability to survive. Followers of the series will recall that after finding his wife in flagrante delicto in the middle of an embassy party Charlie sought consular service abroad. His first posting took him to Havana, where he quickly became caught up in intrigues ranging from disappearing diplomats to dastardly drug-dealing. Although he managed to solve these puzzles and escape with his life, Charlie didn’t fare much better when he arrived at his next posting in Moscow, where he encountered Russian thugs at the highest level while trying to free a Canadian from prison.
This time around we find Charlie on fresh soil, undertaking (if that’s the word) duties as a minor consular officer for Canada at their embassy in Tokyo. His first task is to come to the aid of a Canadian banker named Robert LePage. It seems he’s been involved in a serious traffic accident and now lies comatose in a Tokyo hospital. With no information on the man, Charlie’s assignment is to discover his nearest relatives and notify them of his condition and to serve as his proxy while he is incapacitated.
But nothing comes easy for Charlie. Curiously, Nippon Kasuga, the Japanese company that employed LePage, merely sponsored him for his work visa and can offer no clue as to his personal background. A search of LePage’s apartment reveals a space as sterile and anonymous as a hotel room, with no photographs or other memorabilia that will help Charlie with his task.
His colleagues at the Canadian embassy are equally unhelpful. The ambassador, Philip Westwood, seems a decent enough chap, but he has no knowledge of LePage. Charlie’s immediate superior at the embassy is Louis Denault, a pompous, controlling man to whom Charlie takes an immediate dislike. The only other embassy staffer Charlie knows at this point is a colleague in the consular section, Karen Fraser, the very person who handed Charlie the Lepage file in the first place.
This, of course, is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As he struggles to discover more about LePage’s life he encounters Canadian Mike Seger, apparently a boyhood friend of Lepage’s.
When LePage emerges from his coma, he cannot recall anything that will help Charlie, including his own name. He cannot recall the details of any family or close friends, including his friend Mike, and even the Japanese girlfriend who comes to visit him in hospital proves to be of little help.
Just when Charlie begins to focus on LePage’s friend, Mike Seger, he learns that Seger is in the morgue. Another avenue closed, and an ominous turn of events for Charlie.
Author Nick Wilkshire has travelled the world in his career as a lawyer, and it shows. As with his earlier novels, his account of life in Japan is meticulously researched and unfailingly accurate, from his descriptions of navigating the subways and neighbourhoods of Toyko to the subtle intricacy of Japanese manners and social protocol. It’s this attention to detail that gives his stories their compelling quality, as he skillfully merges plot with setting and character to produce a spellbinding tale of intrigue.
Wilkshire’s portrayal of embassy staffers, Tokyo Police officers, and the various romantic prospects for Charlie as he navigates the convoluted puzzle facing him all lend a strong sense of believability to his story, and the readers is left not only feeling considerable empathy for Charlie, but also wondering where his next post will take him. An excellent read, with a fresh point of view.
Remember Tokyo is published by Dundurn Press.
Since 2005 more than 500 of Jim Napier's reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime fiction and literary websites, including his own award-winning review site, Deadly Diversions. His debut crime novel Legacy was published in 2017, and the second in the series, Ridley’s War, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2019.