Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan’s cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.
Saehyun would’ve died if not for Nao’s help. He knows nothing of his savior’s connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.
As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he’d all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family..
The Yakuza Path: Blood Stained Tea is the first book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like complex characters, blood-soaked violence, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s gritty crime masterpiece.
This was undoubtedly one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write in the past year, most of it is totally my fault. I approached this story full of false assumptions. I skimmed over the blurb and immediately assumed that it was a murder/mystery romance with a Yakusa foundation along the lines of some of my favorite romances and I could not have been more wrong. Those false expectations colored my viewpoint for two thirds of this story. Luckily, the plot, the characters and the superb writing kept taking my assumptions and drowning them in the river in Kyoto, along with many, many bodies.
Make no mistake. This is a brutal story. These characters are not some criminals with heinous crimes that occur off the page. There is torture, extreme violence that happens at once. They are in many respects, psychopaths (especially one). Tasukada does not look away from how they got to this point in their lives, the reality of both the Korean mafia and the Yakuza in Japan. Not for the soldiers at the basest level living in the worst possible conditions, gun fodder in the many battles or the people in the neighborhoods who become expendable in the gang fight for territory.
I know, some of you might be wondering. Why read this? Because its engrossing, compelling. I couldn’t put it down. Its human drama on both an intimate and huge scale. The author brings in both the ancient City of Kyoto and its past, the tea culture of Japan and so much more effortlessly folded into not only a psychological drama but a gritty crime masterpiece as it says above. Yes it deserves that in every sense that The Godfather deserves it as well. And this is merely the first story, the first step forward. What a gut cruncher, a heartbreaker and mindtwister Blood Stained Tea turns out to be. Shocking really.
And it all starts with confused Nao, hiding in his Tea shop, looking for the perfect oolong tea and never finding it.
This story is still haunting me. And yes, I need that second story. I need to read it even as I’m cringing in expectation over what I will find there. Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path #1) by Amy Tasukada will top my list of Best Books of 2017. It may be the top book of 2017. Its that good. Don’t go looking for love and romance. It won’t be found in the blood stained tea. What you will find is a complex, human drama that will surprise you at every turn, make you run through the range of our emotions and emerge still hopelessly connected to this world and characters. Yes I think masterpiece is the word that belongs here.
The cover is perfect as it highlights an important element in the story.
Kindle Edition, 319 pages
Published November 28th 2016 by Macarons & Tea Publishing