Nikolai Hel .
Add an L to the surname of the protagonist and you will get an idea of where he comes from.
But let’s take a step back, even more than one, because the years are those of Stalin and Mao ; in short, those in which the East is a big board of the Risiko and the players involved are the United States, China, the Soviet Union and France.
Let’s go back to Nikolai.
Our protagonist is the son of a Russian noble who fell after Stalin’s rise to power, raised in Shanghai, and entrusted to the care of the Japanese politician stationed in China, Kishikawa, who sends him to Japan after the death of his mother. In these years, the young Nikolaj cultivates his interest in the game of Go , the leitmotif of the entire novel, as well as learning Japanese traditions and, obviously, fighting techniques that allow him to kill with his bare hands or using the first objects. in range as improper weapons.
The story opens with the American intelligence who rescues Nikolaj from the jails where he has been locked up for the last three years on charges of having murdered his mentor Kishikawa, with the aim of entrusting him with a mission. Few clear instructions:
- Go to Beijing under a false identity;
- Make contact with the government to be able to approach and assassinate the Soviet High Commissioner stationed in China;
- Leave the country.
Translation: a suicide. But Nikolai doesn’t have many alternatives. Before leaving, however, he must undergo facial reconstruction surgery, marred by the kind attentions of American Major Diamond at the time of his arrest. During his convalescence he is entrusted to the care of Solange, a femme fatale who combines the most passionate techniques of love with refined French cuisine. It goes without saying that our protagonist will lose his head and heart for her.
This is, broadly speaking, the beginning of a story in which the most sadistic tortures and heroic acts alternate; traditional teas and rivers of French wine; individuals whose word is life insurance and despicable snakes. Yes, because those who were friends up until a second earlier may be on the other side of the fence at the end of the page: double, triple play is amateur stuff, you will have to borrow fingers to keep track of side changes.
The pen that narrates Nikolaj’s adventures is that of the Don. Winslow for the uninitiated. This time, however, it is not all his own work: as the preface reveals, Satori is a sort of prequel to Shibumi , a 1979 novel by Trevanian (pseudonym of the author Rodney William Whitaker , 1931-2005).
So you just have to get both books and read them in the order that your conscience suggests.