68. The Devil of Nanking

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder
Published as Tokyo in the UK

Pages: 363
Finished: Apr. 12, 2008
First Published: 2004
Genre: thriller, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

To those who fight and rage against superstition, I say only this: why?

Reason for Reading: I'm reading all the author's books.

Comments: Grey is a young woman who is driven to find the answer to her past. To find her answer she must seek a piece of rare film taken during the Nanking Massacre. This obsession takes her to Tokyo and into the world of hostess bars and the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Chapters alternate with Grey's present and a memoir of an old man she meets written during the days of the Japanese invasion of Nanking.

The atmosphere is dark and imposing. From the start the reader is aware of an impending doom. The mind races as we try to imagine what could be so horrible. The mounting tension is almost unbearable. Until finally, shock after shock is revealed and it was with pounding heart and shortness of breath I closed the book.

This is quite different from Hayder's first two books. The historical aspect was wonderfully done. I have a particular interest in this period, of the Japanese war atrocities (Asian Holocaust) and particularly the 'Rape of Nanking'. Hayder writes a brutal, disturbing and heart-wrenching story. The pace is also slower than in the other books but when it comes to gruesome details Hayder sure knows how to pack a punch.

I can't wait to read her next book "Pig Island" which sounds like it crosses over into the horror genre. All along I've thought her books have been somewhere between thriller and horror. The Devil of Nanking is recommended to both those interested in the Nanking Massacre and those who enjoy a heart-pounding thriller.


  1. Great review! I am so glad you liked this one. I did too. It's still the only book by the author that I've read, but I do plan to change that one of these days. I loved the historical aspect of the novel in particular. I wasn't familiar with the atrocities in Nanking before I read the book, but it did inspire me to do a little further research after I read the book.

  2. I know a little about the Nanking Massacre, and I'm not sure that I can stomach a book about it, but your review certainly makes this book sound intriguing, and perhaps I shall give it a try.

  3. Great review. I added this to my TBR.


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