Bullet Train by Kōtarō Isaka

Bullet Train is a thriller with a dark comedy edge, about a train full of killers battling to make it to the end of the line. On the train from Tokyo to Morioka is Kimura, a man hunting revenge on a sadistic schoolboy, Satoshi, who threw his son off a roof and is also on the train. Unbeknownst to them, also on the train are killer duo Tangerine and Lemon, tasked with delivering a suitcase and a kidnapped son back to a famed gangster, and unlucky assassin Nanao, who is on a job to steal the suitcase. What unfolds as the train travels between the stations is a complicated web of double crossing, confusion, and violence.

This is a book with the vibe of darkly comic action film, especially with elements like the unluckiness of Nanao and constant assumption that Satoshi, aka The Prince, is an innocent schoolboy (he has the vibe of Five from Umbrella Academy), which makes it an enjoyable thriller about immoral people battling to survive. The narrative cuts between the main characters, sometimes jumping minutes back in time to give multiple perspectives, and this also gives it a cinematic feel. Despite being a long book, it is fast-paced with twists and tension leaving you wonder what could happen next and not sure who you should root for.

A ‘locked train’ thriller about killers fighting for their lives and a suitcase, Bullet Train is gripping book for fans of thrillers that don’t quite take themselves too seriously and the kinds of films where gangsters and shady types find themselves all accidentally up against each other. It’s not something I’d usually pick out to read, but I’m glad I did (on a whim because I’ve read some Japanese novels recently).