Book: Rain Storm by Barry Eisler

Pretty good thriller-ish novel about an assassin

Barry Eisler
Rain Storm
Putnam, 2004
ISBN: 0-399-15192-3
334 pages

Rain Storm, like Mr Eisler's previous novels Rain Fall and Hard Rain, is narrated by John Rain. Rain is an assassin by trade. Actually, he's not named in Rain Storm, but it's the same narrator as in the other books. Rain's specialty is making the deaths he's responsible for look natural or accidental. Not surprisingly, people who don't want the deaths they've paid for to be investigated find that a useful skill in an assassin.

Rain is an American of Japanese descent; he fought in Vietnam and lived in Japan for a long time. He can pass as Japanese and sometimes as other Asian nationalities. In this book, Rain has left Japan because he became too well known there. He now lives in Brazil, mixing with the ethnic-Japanese population there without much difficulty.

Despite his not particularly wanting them to, the CIA catches up to him in Rio and asks him to do a job for them. Somewhat reluctantly, he agrees. This time it's an arms dealer who's currently in Macau.

The story is fun but not all that exciting; there aren't very many tension-filled moments and the ending isn't remarkable. It's also the case that John Rain isn't all that interesting as a character. I don't mean that as a criticism of Mr Eisler's writing. Rain is an assassin. He doesn't have time for hobbies and his list of buddies is going to be notably short. We know that he likes scotch, jazz, and coffee shops, and that's about it. And it's not as though someone who murders people for a living is likely to be deeply emotional or highly introspective. I suppose that I'd expect an assassin to be a little wooden. But it's a bit of a pity since we don't have a fascinating character here to help out a plot that's only pretty interesting.

Rain does go to interesting places and Mr Eisler makes the most of them. His descriptions Macau and the neighborhoods of Hong Kong are vivid and compelling. Still, Rain Storm is only pretty good.

It may be that after two other books in which the same narrator does the same sort of thing, I'd had almost enough of the formula. Or it may be that the plot of Rain Storm is a little less interesting than the plots of Mr Eisler's first two books. It has been long enough since I read them that I don't know which is true. In either case, if you liked the first two books, I suspect you'll like Rain Storm, though probably not quite as much. If you haven't read any of them, I'd suggest starting with Rain Fall.

Posted: Sun - September 12, 2004 at 07:05   Main   Category: