Red Chrysanthemum: A Novel of Occupied Japan

Henry F. Mazel

Spruence Foundation Press 2013
A book review by Danny Yee © 2013
Having fought his way across the Pacific, lieutenant Alex Rada is there to witness Japan's official surrender in Tokyo Bay. He then finds himself plucked from obscurity, working as a translator, and seconded to the military police; he is partnered with a former member of Japanese naval intelligence and sent on a mission to far northern Japan to "arrest and protect" a leading communist. But why has he, an open and ardent anti-communist, been chosen for this job?

When Rada looks like being framed for an assassination, he has to break rules left, right and centre to try to clear his name. His efforts will uncover conflicts between different parts of the armed forces and government, at the highest levels.

There's not much of a mystery element to Red Chrysanthemum, but it offers plenty of twists and turns and action. If anything it is too fast-paced — that mostly works well but leaves a romance strand too sketchy to seem really plausible. And the setting is so fascinating that one wishes Mazel had slowed down a little and done more with it. He offers glimpses of the bombed-out cities, the social and psychological impacts of defeat, and the remoteness of central Hokkaido, among much else.

Rada is an attractive protagonist, with an irreverent sense of humour, and that helps to make Red Chrysanthemum an enjoyable and entertaining read.

December 2013

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%T Red Chrysanthemum
%S A Novel of Occupied Japan
%A Mazel, Henry F.
%I Spruence Foundation Press
%D 2013
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781492384298
%P 217pp