Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin ConstableThree Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable
Published by Simon and Schuster on June 4th 2013
Source: Publisher
Pages: 337
Buy from IndieBound


I often try to summarize books on my own in my reviews, but in the case of Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa, the blurb is almost as fantastic as the novel.

What writer Benjamin Constable needs is a real-life adventure wilder than his rampant imagination. And who better to shake up his comfortable Englishman-in-Paris routine than the enigmatic Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, who has just sent a cryptic suicide note?

She’s planted a slew of clues—in the pages of her journal, on the hard drive of her computer, tucked away in public places, under flowerpots, and behind statues. Heartbroken, confused, and accompanied by an imaginary cat, Ben embarks upon a scavenger hunt leading to charming and unexpected spaces, from the hidden alleys of Paris to the cobblestone streets of New York City.

But Butterfly’s posthumous messages are surprisingly well informed for the words of a dead person, and they’re full of confessions of a past darkened by insanity, betrayal, and murder. The treasures Ben is unearthing are installments of a gruesome memoir. Now he must draw a clear line between the real and surreal if he is to save himself, Butterfly, and what remains of their crazy and amazing friendship.

Too often, it seems, we attempt to pigeonhole books into genres rather than giving writers the freedom to create something different. While I certainly see the purpose of categorizing for the sake of recommending or finding books, I hate the thought of novels being overlooked or edited simply because they straddle genre lines. 

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa succeeds, in part, because it is not easily categorized. While it has the bones of a mystery or thriller, the novel has much more imagination and whimsy than either genre alone. When was the last time the protagonist in your spy series stopped following a trail to talk to an imaginary cat? 

At the same time, however, the characters are incredibly self-aware. Constable’s voice is always a step ahead of any criticism the reader may have – he even takes a moment to explain why his cat is not restricted by the laws of science. His fantastic ability to play with words and language is an added bonus, as it gives the novel a quirky tone and infuses the book with phrases that act as an extra puzzle. 

I hesitate to share too much about the hunt Butterfly left behind and the trail Ben ultimately follows in hopes of avoiding spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well suspense and humor were blended to the tail end. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa is an unexpected, playful jaunt woven by an author with a talent for navigating language that you won’t want to miss.