This true story starts off with a frightening encounter with a member of the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, who threatens Adelstein’s life. From this dramatic opening we return to Adelstein’s early years on the Yomiuri crime beat, which while interesting for the sheer novelty of its gaijin take on the world of Japanese newspaper reporting and routine police work, lacks the drama of the second half of the book. For it is from around the half-way point that this until then merely adequate book takes off, as Adelstein stumbles across information suggesting that a Yakuza kingpin was granted a US visa by the FBI so that he could buy his way to the top of the liver transplant queue at UCLA hospital.
Is this book written or structured to the very highest standards? Perhaps not. Would we all have made the same judgements as Adelstein? Unlikely, since most of us are both less obsessive and less brave than he. But this is a fascinating story that disabuses those like me who previously saw the Yakuza as a joke mafia, and also touches on the deeper scandal of the tolerance and even support they receive from parts of the Japanese establishment. An important, informative and at times thrilling book.