‘Tokyo Redux’, a Drama in Three Acts

In the final opus in his crime trilogy dedicated to Tokyo, writer David Peace examines an unresolved criminal case.


WordsClémence Leleu

© Faber

6 July 1949. The body of Sadanori Shimoyama, the president of Japanese National Railways, is found on a railway line, having seemingly been hit by a train. This is the very real starting point for David Peace’s fictional crime novel. Tokyo Redux explores this mystery in three parts. The investigation was closed, without being able to determine whether his death was suicide or an assassination. The only certainty was that Sadanori Shimoyama was poised to lay off several thousands of rail workers, which could have made him a target. It was not until 1994, when he bought a book of police cases that took place in Japan, that David Peace discovered this story that had sent shockwaves through the country. The fact that it had remained unresolved piqued the writer’s interest further. 

And for good reason. Firstly, the president of the railway company was not the only victim in this affair, and secondly, the tale unfolded in a very particular context: that of the American occupation of Japan. While the national police agency is investigating the case, the Americans send an officer over from Montana to follow in their footsteps, but without much success. In 1964, as the investigation is stalling, a writer who is working on a book about it disappears. His editor hires a private detective, who then also goes missing. Finally, in 1989, an ex-CIA agent turned translator starts to take an interest in the case…


A trilogy within a trilogy

The book is divided into three chapters, the first of which is dedicated to the death of Sadanori Shimoyama and the writing of which, according to David Peace, was influenced by Dashiell Hammett, the American writer considered to have originated the detective novel. The second chapter starts when the writer goes missing in the particular context of the Olympic Games as they are taking place for the first time in the Japanese capital after the war. The third part begins at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and is partly inspired by John Le Carré, a popular British author of spy novels. 

Tokyo Redux is the final part of David Peace’s crime trilogy dedicated to the Japanese megalopolis. Tokyo Year Zero, published in 2008, was inspired by the hunt for the serial killer Kodaira Yoshio, found guilty of murdering seven women between 1945 and 1946. The plot of Occupied City, released in 2010, is built around the Teigin incident in 1948, when a man held up a bank and then caused the deaths of twelve people by poisoning. The Sadanori Shimoyama affair has also formed the basis for other works, like the manga Billy Bat by Naoki Urasawa.


Tokyo Redux (2022), a novel by David Peace published by Faber.