People talked about Japan as a losers’ paradise for gaijin foreigners, especially males. But I never found it was the case. … Here I was, coming straight from the sack into an untaxing job that left me free of financial concerns. I had friends and a place to live that was convenient, even if it was a little compact. And if my girlfriend could be more elusive than the floating world in which she worked, it was more than compensated by a personality that matched her looks. In fact, her sense of mystery only attracted me more.

For all my doubts, I might have been the mythical gaijan, the one winning in a losers’ paradise. It certainly felt like everything had come good. Unfortunately, when you’re at the top there’s only one way to go.”


Falling from the Floating World, Nick Hurst’s second novel, is an elegantly constructed thriller, occasionally lyrical in its depiction of Japanese life, culture and crime. As the book opens, gaijin Ray, a Japanese Studies graduate, is living in Japan, where he has come to live after being very politely sacked from his job in advertising. Here, he meets the alluring, intriguing Tomoe, ‘so gorgeous’ he gets ‘butterflies’ when he’s around her. But being with Tomoe is like walking on shifting sands: he’s never quite sure where he stands and which version of her he’ll meet. When she appears on his doorstep, obviously troubled, it emerges that her father has reportedly committed suicide – but the manner of his death makes Tomoe doubt the official version of events.

Choshi is a Samurai name … If there was a serious matter of honour, my father might have taken his life. But to jump from a bridge with a note saying he was unhappy?

She blames the yakuza and asks Ray to help her investigate and Ray quickly finds himself falling from the ‘floating world’ and immersed in Japan’s dark underbelly, mired in the rich customs and traditions of the past.

What emerges through Hurst’s writing, and his occasionally wry evocation of Japanese life, is the author’s love and respect for the country. Even when Ray is being warned off by an associate of the yakuza, another gaijin, a fight-game specialist with whom he becomes ‘star struck’, it is a civilised experience: the two men take tea together after ‘the unpleasant business is over’ and have a ‘charming conversation’, after which Ray concludes that the man is, ‘every bit as likeable as his persona’. When Tomoe goes missing, however, all bets are off as Ray seeks to uncover the truth.

In many ways paying more than a nod to old school-style thrillers, at its core Falling from the Floating World is about love and revenge. It’s a fine book, made all the more so by the ‘extras’ – the very beautiful images, from museums, galleries and printmakers, which open each chapter, the notes on pronunciation, key characters and Japanese words – which all add to the experience. I can’t recommend it enough.




Falling from the Floating World | Nick Hurst | Unbound | paperback | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: Quoted book text Nick Hurst © 2019. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour – many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and the publisher for sending us a review copy and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.



Also of interest: Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.