Agreeable but aimless, Michelangelo Magistrale has a photographer's eye for form and detail and a knack with women. It hardly seems out of the ordinary when penniless Amanda Sharmon asks him for bus fare and gives him a room key in return. After Amanda catches a bus west, Magistrale becomes the focus of incomprehensible attacks and nightmarish supernatural manifestations. Luckily, he happens to bunk with sometime-stuntman-ninja Charles Takumo at a youth hostel, and Magistrale's weird experiences engage Takumo's interest. What is the key really for? Where is Amanda Sharmon? Why was she so skittish and sad? Who is behind the attacks, and what is their purpose? Egged on by Takumo and pressured by his unknown and ubiquitous pursuers, Magistrale applies himself to figuring out how he, the strange key, and Amanda are connected.
Stephen Dedman's first novel is one long, suspenseful chase scene. It's reminiscent of Tim Powers's work, but without Powers's sprawl. Dedman's characters are suitably charming (or menacing), and the mythic and contemporary Japanese details are entertainingly skewed in fantastical Hong Kong cinema style: everything is just a little exaggerated, just larger than life. The structure is filmlike, too--tightly paced and without unnecessary digressions. Plan to put your feet up and read this book all in one sitting!