Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Premier Virtual Author Book Tours (thanks!)
Who I Recommend This To: Those who like an action-driven plot, a bit of history, a treasure hunt, and don’t mind a bit of sex and violence would enjoy this novel.
Publisher: Crime Wave Press (2013)
Length: 393 pages
Set in the early 2000s, Valerie Benson is a young lady, more than a little spoiled, on the run from her own failings and a closet of family secrets. She ends up in Japan, crashing at her old boyfriend’s place. After several weeks, she ends up working for the nightclub Cowboy as a hostess. Charlie Kwok, a lawyer trying to bring down Japanese business men who benefited from WWII brothels, is at first bemused by her job, which is questionable, but doesn’t entail sex. In short, Val is paid to look good, flirt and dance with the customers, who spend lots on liquor and leave big tips for the ladies and the club. Val’s biggest tipper of all is known as The Painter, and he likes to paint ladies in the nude. Specifically, he likes to paint women’s genitalia. That’s his addiction. He is willing to pay lots of money, and that is Val’s addiction. Val finds herself in the middle of something bigger than anything she has ever tackled before, and this time running won’t get her out of trouble. Essentially, she finds herself the owner of a treasure map, WWII treasure buried somewhere in Asia, most likely Thailand, and long forgotten. Enter Muddy, an Australian with decades of experience treasure hunting.
Initially, Valerie is a character that I didn’t have much connection with. She lacks responsibility for herself, often leaving others who care about her abruptly. She comes from a wealthy, and highly disfunctional, family, her father being a US Congressman. She’s use to having money and someone to take care of her, always willing to rescue her or give her a place to stay. She detests her father, but can’t give up the trustfund, which is how he always tracks her down (whenever she pulls funds from it). And poor Charlie. He was once head over heels in love with her, begged her for months in every way he could for her to come back to him. But no, she gave him no hope. But ran straight to him in far off Japan when she needed a place to hide away from her troubles.
Then Jame DiBiasio takes us into the seedier side if Japanese culture, but he tells it from the view point of Val, an outsider, and Suki, soon-to-be Val’s best friend. Sure, these ladies could make some better choices in their life, but so could all of us. They are very human, with hopes, dreams, needs, mistakes. They both hostess at this bar, and while no sex happens for money, all the ladies are expected to dress up, flirt, dance, and generally let the customers believe there is always a chance some sexytimes may happen.
I also enjoyed the little history lessons DiBiasio built into the story line. First, charlie Kwok and his firm are filing lawsuits on behave of surviving comfort women, women who were enslaved and forced to work in brothels in WWII for the ‘comfort’ of Japanese soldiers. I had not heard the term ‘comfort women’ before this book, and I do enjoy a fiction that can teach me a little bit about history or science.
So, the first quarter of the book is Val’s night life and Charlie’s lawsuits. Then Val and Suki have a near-death experience at the house of The Painter that throws the plot in a new direction. Val discovers a treasure map, and she and Suki both flee, intending to go to the police with their story. However, it quickly becomes apparent they can’t and must leave the country. This option is cemented when Val looses something precious to her, forcing her resolution to follow the treasure map. Val grows as a character, and I like that in my lead characters.
DiBiasio could have built in more sex than there was, but he leaves much hinted at, or merely stated as facts, without going into lots of description. Prostitution, enslaved women, hostessing…. you would think sexytimes would be happening left, right, and center. But the author restrained himself, putting in enough to make it realistic, to move the plot forward, to show us a point, and not so much as to make me think I wandered onto an Adam & Eve film production. I applaud him for that.
Definitely fast-paced, with action happening at every intersection, this book is full of memorable characters and interesting historical tidbits. Pick it up for the treasure hunting and walk away with some historical trivia. My small criticisms weren’t enough to detract me from enjoying this book. If you are interested, my small criticisms included such things as: occasionally moving a little to abruptly from one scene to the next; Suki appears to need a man for a future; and why did it take Suki and Val so long to figure out that the bad guys would check for them at their apartments?
What I Liked: Val grows from a snot-nosed irresponsible main character, to a woman on the hunt to forge her own life; the book captured the seedier side of life without being risque; lots of Japanese cultural references, vocabulary, poetry built into the story line; historical tidbits tucked in here and there.
What I Disliked: Would have liked Suki to be a little more independent; occasionally moved a little abruptly from one scene to the next.
Jame DiBiasio and Gaijin Cowgirl are on tour. If you would like see more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways, check out the schedule at Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.