In Hugh Ashton’s second novel, At the Sharpe End, current events, appealing characters, and an intriguing mystery come together to form a novel designed to hold your interest right to the last page.
The plot begins right from page one when three of the most major characters are introduced one after the other. Protagonist and British citizen Kenneth Sharpe lives in the outskirts of Tokyo, and has a fairly mundane life until he meets - or more accurately ' is pursued by Mr. Katsuyama, a Japanese scientist and inventor who has a piece of technology that everybody wants. During the meeting, Katsuyama gives the technology to Sharpe. Hours later, Katsuyama is found dead, still with Sharpe’s business card in his pocket. What follows is a whirlwind few months of intrigue, involving Japanese police, British embassy operatives, and most spectacularly, the Korean mob.
Mr. Ashton cleverly puts much of today’s financial drama into play in the novel, along with some spectacular Japanese scenery. There are many times in the book where the reader can close his eyes and picture precisely what the characters are seeing, be it a part of Vietnamese history, or local Japanese sights. Asia takes a prime seat in the novel, and the reader really gets to know some of the customs and idiosyncrasies of life in modern Tokyo.
In a character-driven plot, each character has a specific role to fill, and that includes a handful of bad guys. The reader can’t figure out who the real bad guy is, though, until nearly the end. In fact, someone who is made out to be the bad guy is really a hero, which comes out later in a somewhat confusing manner. That’s a definite strength in the novel, however: you have to keep reading to find out the resolution of the story.