Title: Tokyo Heist
Author: Diana Renn
May Contain Spoilers
Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.
Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone’s lives are in danger — including Violet’s and her father’s.
Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery — before it’s too late.
Mysteries aren’t my favorite genre, but Tokyo Heist had me curious because of the setting. Violet is a huge manga geek, which I could definitely relate to, and she gets to go globe-trotting – to Japan. How could I not want to read that?
Violet is resigned that she isn’t going to have the best summer. Her mother is in Italy for work, and she’s going to be staying with her father. To say that her father is distant is an understatement. To say that he is distracted also falls far short of the mark. Her father, a man she barely knows, is an artist, and a rather eccentric one at that. When he’s in a creative frame of mind, there is no room for anything, or anyone, else. Not even his teenaged daughter. While Violet understands that theirs is not the closest of relationships, she is shocked to discover that her father has never told his co-workers, or even his girlfriend, about her existence. Ouch!
When Violet’s father takes a commission from a wealthy Japanese couple, Violet finds herself embroiled in a mystery. Somebody has stolen some van Gogh drawings from the Yamada’s, and all fingers are pointing to Skye, her father’s girlfriend. Determined to find the drawings, and collect the huge reward, Violet discovers that there is so much more at stake than the drawings. Her father’s life is on the line. A yakuza boss is demanding the return of a van Gogh painting based on the drawings, claiming that Tomonori Yamada had stolen it from him. Tomonori committed suicide years before, but Violet is starting to suspect that it wasn’t a suicide after all.
Most of the appeal of this read for me is the location. What I wouldn’t give for an all-expenses paid trip to Tokyo (and a ryokan in Kyoto). Even with all of the related danger! Traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun is a dream of mine, one that I have had for a long, long time. I want to slurp noodles at a ramen shop, stuff myself with fresh sushi, and snack on Melty Kiss and limited edition Kit Kat bars. Through Violet, I was able to see some of the highlights of Tokyo, all without the expensive plane ticket and hotel room.
I liked Violet. I felt for her when her best friend and secret crush, Edge, started dating her former BFF. Everything she did to try to make things better and repair her friendship with Edge only made matters worse. Without the mystery to occupy her thoughts, Violet would have moped around all summer long. Instead, she spent her vacation trying to outsmart gangsters, locate a missing masterpiece, and get her father to finally pay attention to her. I felt bad for Violet. She was desperate to have her father’s approval, but he was always far too busy with his art to give her even the time of day. I didn’t think her mother was much better, though, because she hopped on a plane to Italy and left her with her father, hardly a candidate for Father of the Year, without a second glance. Just. Wow.
Violet has perfected the technique of being invisible to avoid being bullied at school. That doesn’t really work, but she is willing to stay on the fringes instead of getting caught up in the middle of all of the action. With the life of her father in danger, though, she must face her fears and start taking risks. Sometimes observing life isn’t good enough; you have to roll up your shirt sleeves and dive into life. It was fun watching as Violet gathered the courage to do just that.
Despite some pacing issues, i enjoyed this YA mystery. I think it will work best for the younger range of YA readers, or anyone with an interest in Japan or Japanese art should find it hard to put down. Violet is a likeable protagonist, and I had fun following along as she discovered her inner strengths and started to come into her own as she struggled with her relationship with her self-absorbed father. Her lack of stealth as she raced to crack the mystery of the missing van Gogh painting had me worried about her continued health on more than one occasion. I breathed a sigh of relief when she emerged, mostly unscathed, to the end of the book.
Review copy provided by publisher