Suzuki's wife has died in an accident caused deliberately by a gangster's son. Suzuki wants revenge and has infiltrated their illegal firm. His cover is about to be blown and his only chance is to uncover the identity of an assassin who is known in the industry as the Pusher, a phantom killer who silently pushes his victim to death on a busy road or a railway track. Intercepting his mission are two other equally ruthless assassins- the Whale, who makes his victims commit suicide and Cicada, who is an expert in terminating entire families, kids and all.
Three Assassins is a black comedy written by Kotaro Isaka and is a prequel to Bullet Train, of which we talked about before. Basic premise and themes of both novels are similar. But main differences that I could identify lies in the tone and pace of the books. Three Assassins is a bit slow paced than Bullet Train and focuses more on character development. This book is shorter than the latter and is a very easy read.
Structure of the book is similar to Bullet Train. The story is told in the point of views of Suzuki, the Whale and Cicada. Each chapter follows one character and is named accordingly. Focusing only on three characters makes the novel more easy to follow when compared with Bullet Train, which has more main characters. Some of the characters of this novel makes an appearance in Bullet Train, in person or in mention.
I was a bit apprehensive at first because the identity of the Pusher which supposedly was the main focus of the story, is evident to the reader from the beginning, though Suzuki is doubtful of it. But the author uses some pretty great twists later and makes up for it. The payoffs are much stronger in Three Assassins. You will find many Chekhov's guns in the plot that comes into play later. (Chekhov's gun is a literary device that insists that if a gun is shown initially in the story, it has to be fired before climax.)
I loved the characters of all three assassins. The Pusher is a very calm and collected person who carries a saintly, philosophical air. The Whale is the most well portrayed one of the lot. A look into his eyes makes people to take their own lives. He always sees his victims around him as ghosts who converses with him and many times these conversations helps him. He is the most complex and most interesting character due to his great story arc. Cicada is a one note character who is interesting only due to his ruthless nature, unemotional thinking and the overall craziness that he brings with him.
Suzuki is the main character who ties up the plot together. He is a down to earth person and easy to root for, even though in the quest for revenge he has done some mean deeds and never feels sorry. But compared to the general craziness around him, the chapters of Suzuki pulls down the energy level of the plot a bit down. On the other hand Nanao, the lead of Bullet Train is more electric and keeps the madness intact in his story.
Three Assassins is an interesting and easily read page turner. If you love black comedies, thrillers and books featuring assassins, you are in for a treat due to the crackling plot. It is a great accompaniment to Bullet Train which is a better and more complex sequel.