The Devouring God
By James Kendley
There’s something strange going on in Fukuoka, Japan. Tohru Takuda and his companions, Suzuki and Mori and his wife Yumi, have found work and a small apartment there. Rumors abound about a killer who leaves behind everything but the bones of his victims, but there’s no official news of the deaths in the media. Several students are missing, but officials brush it aside as cram-school stress.
Takuda’s new boss gives him a job guarding the Fukuoka Prefecture mental health office. An American English teacher from a private school has made increasingly disturbing phone calls, and the staff fears he will do them harm. There’s something different about this job, something that slides around Takuda’s otherworldly senses and threatens to break his façade of normalcy.
Takuda, Mori, and Suzuki are ghost hunters, recently renowned for saving a village from a murderous Kappa. As they investigate the teacher and his students, they discover an artifact so evil that it could not only kill everyone in Fukuoka but also the whole of Japan. This hunt is different from the rest. Clues come too easily, as if they’re being led toward the answer for the benefit of a third party. The hunters are changing, both physically and mentally, but is it for the better? Or is it part of a corrupt corporation’s business plan?
The Devouring God is the second book in the Tohru Takuda series, but it’s not necessary to have read the first to enjoy it. There’s enough backstory to fill in the gaps–enough to interest me in reading the first book–and gives context to the bigger picture that connects the series.
I enjoyed the vivid sense of place I got from the novel. The city becomes more than just a backdrop here, since the history of the place is important to the plot. Snippets of history, culture and day-to-day life gave the story an extra push that immersed me into the lives of the characters. The author lived and worked in Japan, and his experience as an American living abroad there certainly informs his descriptions.
It’s refreshing to find an urban fantasy that doesn’t rely on a large organization bent on keeping the paranormal secret. If their straight jobs fall through, or they get fired, they’re on the street. There isn’t a secret quasi-governmental agency ready to swoop them off to safety. It raises the stakes, thus improving my enjoyment of the story.
Before you assume this book is all travelogue and mundanity, let me remind you that this is a horror story to the core. There are whispers of cannibalism in the history of this city, and the thing Takuda, Suzuki, and Mori are after is very, very hungry. It drives ordinary people to ritualistic murders that are both beautiful and grotesque in their execution.
If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, Japanese horror or a mix of the two, check out The Devouring God. It’s a bit slow to get started but stick with it as the pieces come together, and it will be hard to put down.