AUTHOR: Sarah Dupeyron
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 236 pages (paperback)
Recommended for fans of crime thrillers and guilty-pleasure romances novels.
Hashimoto Blues is set up like a thriller, with a menacing villain who terrorizes the protagonist, Ellie, but much of it reads like a romance novel. There is a lot of focus on the relationship between Ellie and her lover, from their first meeting to their blooming relationship to their ultimate dependency on each other to survive when everything goes to hell.
The novel opens with the kind of hook that leaves a reader wanting to know how it came to this, then goes back and tells Ellie’s story starting with how she went from teenage runaway to drug smuggler. Dupeyron takes the time to develop Ellie’s background and relationships before introducing the titular villain, Hashimoto. After that, the book becomes a fast-paced thriller as it follows Ellie’s attempts to escape Hashimoto’s brutality.
First person past. The story is told from Ellie’s point of view and captures many of her internal musings. Ellie is a straightforward and matter-of-fact narrator who tells the reader exactly how she thinks and what she sees.
Hashimoto Blues tells the story of Ellie Fox, a vivacious young woman who makes a living smuggling drugs in her ultralight airplane, which she received as a twentieth birthday present from her mentor, employer, and father-figure, Frank. When Frank introduces Ellie to another protégé of his, the roguish and handsome Max Cameron, Ellie immediately falls in love. When Max proposes a plan to steal a priceless painting from the ruthless crime lord Kendo Hashimoto, both Ellie and Frank call him crazy but are ultimately enticed by the prospect of such a big take. The job goes horribly wrong, and Ellie finds herself running for her life with Max.
The first chapter depicts Ellie and Max receiving a terrifying message from Hashimoto—a human eyeball. Ellie describes Max as a bruised and disillusioned version of the man she fell in love with, and she repeatedly asks herself why she’d agreed to his suicidal plan. The specter of the disaster to come looms over each of the ensuing chapters until that fateful moment when Max says, “Do you want to play a Game?”
Although set against the backdrop of a thriller, this book is first and foremost a romance. After opening the novel with a chilling hook, Dupeyron backtracks and takes her time to set up Ellie’s world before sending her on the job that will destroy it all. Hashimoto Blues contains all the must-haves of a guilty pleasure: a sympathetic female protagonist, a fascinating backdrop, and lots of chemistry. Max is the quintessential bad-boy fantasy: good-looking, charming, and yet dangerous—he never speaks of the illegal jobs he performs for Frank. He loves Ellie with the kind of ardor all women dream of, making him the perfect romantic lead.
Ellie, meanwhile, is instantly likable. She’s far from perfect—apart from being a pot-smoking drug smuggler with a tendency to internally judge people, she can also be a little arrogant. And yet if nothing else, she comes across as genuine. Her morals might be somewhat skewed, but she’s good to the people she cares about. She also has the admirable ability to keep her head when everything around her is going to hell, which becomes vital once she finds herself the target of Hashimoto’s murderous intentions.
The world Dupeyron creates is somewhat incongruent, and that’s part of its appeal. It’s easy to root for Ellie and Max even though, as Max finally points out toward the end of the book, they are the bad guys. They are good people working for a criminal enterprise. Hashimoto, on the other hand, turns out to be a twisted sadist who doesn’t just want the deaths of the people who cross him; he wants to toy with them first.
Dupeyron’s down-to-earth writing neatly captures Ellie’s voice and brings her to life on the page. When it comes to the thriller aspects of the story, Dupeyron is as merciless as Hashimoto, depicting the brutal crime lord’s cruelty in a way that makes the audience cheer Ellie on when she and Max ultimately decide to turn the tables on him and take him out before he catches up to them.
Both a steamy romance and a blood-chilling thriller, Hashimoto Blues is the kind of book that many women will enjoy. It contains all the elements of popular romances but goes beyond its genre through its portrayal of Ellie’s life as a criminal. It is undeniably entertaining and, once Hashimoto enters the picture, virtually impossible to put down.
THE NITPICKY STUFF
This book is well edited and contains no distracting errors. There are a teeny, tiny, barely perceptible number of typos.
This book contains a lot of adult content—language, sex, and violence. Although the violence is not gratuitous or violent, what is implied can be rather disturbing.
[From Amazon.com’s author page]
Sarah Dupeyron lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling, practicing martial arts, or working at the local public library.