Vietnam veteran Sam Phillips follows in the footsteps of his father into the world of private investigations. It’s the end of the Vietnam War in 1976 during the Fall of Siagon and a battle-worn Sam has just taken over his father’s company after his death.
With his office above a seedy bar off Hollywood and Vine, Sam and his new assistant Constance Turner go weeks before they land their first case. With the help of his troubled friend Armstrong Jones—fresh out of prison for nearly killing two men, they are paid by an old friend Michelle Yamada of protecting her little brother Ken, a Yakuza gang member being hunted by a rival gang, the Yokohama Black Rebels who killed their father. Chasing Ken is the notorious boss Hiroshi Ito, a sadistic killer who has killed nearly all the Yakuza bosses in Little Tokyo.
In protecting Ken, people close to Sam are getting killed off, including detective friends who are trying to capture Hiroshi for murder. When things start to not add up about Ken, Sam and Armstrong begin to wonder if they’re being played the fool. Sam and Armstrong must go on the offensive before it’s too late.
Sam Phillips is a private investigator in Los Angeles, and the year is 1976. The story begins after his return from active duty in Vietnam as he tries to leverage his military background to launch his own PI agency with his loyal secretary, Constance Turner. Sam is taunted by his landlord for past-due rent when his first client appears.
Michelle Yamada introduces her brother, Ken, and hires Sam to protect Ken from a dangerous Japanese gang known as Yokohama Black Rebels. Sam's second client is Lauren Tolliver, a wealthy has-been actress who asks Sam to find an emerald stone necklace valued at $1.5 million. In both cases, Sam suspects his clients of withholding information but remains committed to do what he has been paid to do. He solicits the help of his friend, Armstrong Jones, an ex-convict who has PI aspirations of his own. The danger centers around Bushido, the Samurai's code, which is "to exact revenge without hesitation."
As a story of mystery and crime, it kept me intrigued and held my interest with surprises at several points in the story. It is written in the first person from Sam's point of view. Sam takes the reader through his nightmares from the war, love interests, and the bonds he holds dearly with family and friends.
I found more than one part of the story out of sequence. For example: "I follow Ken and Michelle back to their place so he could pack up his belongings to bring back with me." Following that statement is "I instruct Ken to sit low in the back seat as to not be recognized." If Sam followed them in his car, how did Ken end up in his back seat? There are also events that seem to come out of nowhere, such as a marriage proposal that did not follow any surge of passion relatable to the reader. During the series of fatalities, I wanted to feel empathy for Sam, but the writing lacked the intensity of emotion.
I enjoyed the way the mysteries overlapped and unraveled. The side stories within the larger story kept it interesting. I prefer a writing style with more fervor so I could hold a strong connection to the characters, but as a mystery & crime book, the story line kept my attention.
Gail has project management experience and specializes in writing for a corporate audience. Book reviews on Reedsy/Discovery include memoir, novels, mystery & crime, fiction, legal & medical thrillers, essays and short stories.