3 out of 4 stars
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The Water Trade by Rob Smith blends historical fact with a fantastical tale of war, love and family. A Japanese spy, US Navy officer and a civilian bookkeeper of Japanese descent are all brought together under mysterious circumstances at Pearl Harbor during World War II. The events that take place will forever haunt the trio until they are brought back together, years later to face the past. The Water Trade is a spy thriller intermingled with themes of deception, lost love, and patriotism.
In The Water Trade, Smith expertly crafts a web of relationships among the main players that excitingly comes together at the end resulting in an electrifying finale. The character connections and plot details were the best aspects of the novel. Though the main characters were all strong and complex, it was interesting to see how they reacted in times of great pressure and unethical circumstance. Miyuki, in particular, was a wonderful character. A Japanese civilian working as a bookkeeper, she chose to put herself in grave danger to potentially make a difference. Her brave disposition made for exceptionally good reading.
Although the plot of the story was thrilling, the writing lacked imagination and pacing. The tale itself moved quickly and excitingly through time, but the writing was often boring. The book was clearly well researched; unfortunately, the author chose to show this by dropping pages of historical information into the narrative, taking away from the excitement and suspense of the story.
Further, the character development was lacking in some instances. For example, the Japanese spy, Yoshimura, is introduced as a young boy who is plagued with bouts of mental instability which we later learn to be the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, other than the brief mention of theses struggles in his childhood, the crippling disorder is never mentioned again. In no way does the disorder effect Yoshimura’s ability to be an intelligence officer or to live a mostly normal life after the war. From the beginning, this seemed like such an important plot device that I looked forward to reading about, unfortunately, the author did not follow through.
I rate The Water Trade 3 out of 4 stars. The novel is clearly well researched and the ideas behind the plot and characters were both exciting and well constructed, but too often the writing fell flat. If the author had written the novel in a style that was reflective of the fast paced and exciting story, The Water Trade would have earned a higher rating. Those who enjoy historical fiction focused on World War II as well as tales of espionage will surely enjoy this book.
The Water Trade
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