A Dangerous Game of Espionage: MysteryPeople Q&A with Barry Lancet

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

Barry Lancet has done it again: he’s written another thriller that crosses from America to Japan to North Korea and China, educating readers about cultural and political issues in the four nations.

The Spy Across the Table is Lancet’s fourth in his series about Jim Brodie, who works as an expert on Japanese art (often selling it to rich Americans) and runs a detective agency in Japan that he inherited from his father. As with the other books in the series there’s plenty of hooks, twist and surprises in addition to a variety of interesting characters.

One of the things I like about Lancet’s series is he has a section in the back of each book called About Authenticity, separating truth from fiction. As a former journalist who likes his fact and fiction kept separate this is a move I’d like to see more writers doing.

As this book starts Brodie has arranged for one of his American friends to meet a Japanese friend of Brodie’s. After their meeting, both are found murdered. Despite his shock, Brodie pursues the killer and others responsible, a chase that will take him across several countries. Meanwhile, the First Lady, a college roommate of one of the victims, enlists Brodie to find the killer.

Lancet was kind enough to be interviewed for his new book. I previously interviewed him here for his prior book, Pacific Burn

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story for this book?

Barry Lancet: I asked myself what’s keeping me up at night? As an American expat living in Tokyo on the far edge of the Pacific, I didn’t have far to look. The North Koreans were once again rattling their sabers and spouting off about going nuclear, while the Chinese were grabbing new territory, paving over uninhabited atolls to build airstrips. Everyone in Asia was on edge, though the rest of the world paid attention only sporadically. That was 18 months ago. I had no idea that these two countries would soon be grabbing major U.S. headlines as they have of late.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Barry Lancet

Interview by MysteryPeople contributor Scott Butki

 

Pacific BurnBarry Lancet’s latest thriller, and his third in his Jim Brodie series, at least for me, departed from the traditional detective story from the start – yet the more I read, the more I got into it…. and grew to love it.

Why is it a departure? Well, let me set the stage for you. As the book begins, a character who soon becomes the protagonist is interrupted from his work liaising between the U.S. and Japan, and his second job, selling high priced classic Japanese art to wealthy Americans, to go to a crime scene, where someone has been asking to talk to him. Immediately, I think, OK, I am pretty ignorant about both Japan and most classic art, so I may have trouble connecting and relating. Through the eyes of Lancet’s protagonist, however, the reader easily becomes immersed in the criminal underworld’s lust for high-priced art.

One major plot thread was inspired by real life: the Fukushima nuclear meltdown after a disastrous earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. I live in Tokyo, and at talks for my first two books, people often asked me about the leaking radiation and why so little was known about this major disaster that obliterated entire towns and did God-knows-what to the environment. Reports indicated that a lot had been hidden from the public by Japan’s so-called “nuclear mafia.” It was a story just waiting to be told.

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