Shibumi by Trevanian

Trevanian’s Shibumi is an international-man-of-mystery-spy-thriller. I think it’s also a sendup of the genre, capitalism, Orientalism, etc. But in a fun way. Like a Shaun of the Dead way. Here’s the back cover blurb form the 1983 printing of the 1979 book:


The Code of the Perfect Assassin

The Secret of the Perfect Lover

If you think that sounds cool then you are in. If you think it sounds dumb, don’t bother. 

The protagonist of the book is the mysterious and suave and condescending Nicholai Hel. He grew up in China, the son of a saucy Russian aristocrat and an absent but looming Austrian or German father. During Japan’s invasion of China, young Hel gets taken in by a Japanese military man, educated on the game of Go and Japanese culture, and eventually ends up in Japan.

Fast forward to the present (1970s), where The Mother Company, the secret cabal of energy company world leaders who run puppet governments around the world are looking to terminate the world’s greatest assassin – a mangled Nicholai Hel.

The book bounces back and forth between the 1970s and The Mother Company, and Hel’s past, in which he basically becomes a philosopher warrior.

While Hel is legendary, he is retired but has to come back for One Last Mission (you know how it is). That means leaving behind his world-class lover, his amazing ancient house in the mountains of Basque Country, and having to deal the rabble of modern society.

Shibumi isn’t literature or anything, but I had a lot of fun reading it. Because of the book’s subject matter and age, I would imagine it’s not for everyone.

PS Chad Stahelski (The Crow, The Matrix, the John Wick movies) is signed on to direct a movie adaptation of this, so if that actually happens you might want to read this before it’s A Thing.