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At the Sharpe End by Hugh Ashton
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At the Sharpe End (2010)

by Hugh Ashton

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2014792,370 (4)7
When his card is found in the pocket of a man who has died at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Kenneth Sharpe's life takes a turn for the worse. Freelance technology consultants have no business with burglary, kidnapping, murder or the overthrow of governments, but these become part of Sharpe's life as he and his friends take on the financial world, against the backdrop of the 2008 Wall Street crash.… (more)

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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Really weird biz-tech noir set in Japan by someone who appears to know Japan well. The plot is tissue paper, the characters are straight out of central casting and the writing and pace are SO good that if you like the genre or anything close to it you will be having too much fun to care. If the world was ending this would be a fun book to curl up with. ( )
1 vote agingcow2345 | Mar 30, 2011 |
I couldn't remember putting a request in for this book and when I received it, I was even more confused since an action/espionage book isn't my usual cup of tea. But the author was gracious enough to send me a printed copy rather than make me read it online, so I promised I would read it once I wrapped up some others in my stack.

Then I read the plot - it involved a computer blogger? reporter? consultant? I guess a bit of all those...and stolen software programs and technology and *yawn*

But no...not really "yawn." In fact, I was really surprised. Maybe the protagonist isn't a ex-military action hero or so suave with the ladies, but the plot and story seem (with some stretch) plausible. Better yet, Ashton writes a quick-moving story. The writing is precise and the story is exciting and even though it's really covering an array of topics I usually have zero interest in reading about, I found myself eager to get back to my work commute for more than the reason of getting home, but to have time to read a bit further about Sharpe and the rest of the crew.

I thought Ashton did an amazing job of making characters who should have been unlikable likable and then throwing them back into the despicable category. He manages to do this with multiple characters and he did so with real skill. I was very impressed with this book and don't see any reason it's not being published by a major publisher for a shot at the best-seller list. ( )
3 vote Sean191 | Feb 1, 2011 |
At the Sharpe End by Hugh Ashton is one of those books that I probably wouldn't have come across if it wasn't for the fact that I am a member of LibraryThing. The author, taking advantage of the Member Giveaway program, was providing review copies of the book and I was lucky enough to win one. The novel is self-published and so hasn't gotten a lot of media attention, but when I went searching for reviews most of them were favorable. At the Sharpe End, released in 2010, is Ashton's second novel to be published, the first being an alternative history called Beneath Gray Skies. Ashton, who was originally from the United Kingdom, has been living and working in Japan since 1988. In addition to writing stories and novels, Ashton has experience working in both the financial and the information technology industries--a background that came in handy while writing At the Sharpe End. I probably wouldn't have picked up At the Sharpe End on my own, but I am still happy to have had the opportunity to read it.

Kenneth Sharpe is a freelance technology consultant working in Tokyo and is fairly happy with his life. One day he is unexpectedly approached by the president of Katsuyama Electronic Devices to do some work publicizing their recent developments and advancements in facial and image recognition technology. Soon later the man is reported as dead and Sharpe suddenly finds his life much more complicated; there are plenty of people interested in obtaining the Katsuyama technology and Sharpe has the only known prototype in his possession. With the help of his friends, he is able to determine that the technology is more than just a facial recognition program and is something that is potentially far more valuable. Unfortunately for Sharpe, he and the technology has caught the attention of the Japanese authorities, both the British and American governments, and even the North Korean yakuza.

I will admit that when it comes to finances, my mind tends to go blank and my attention starts to wander so I was pleasantly surprised when Ashton was able to keep me engaged throughout the entire novel. In fact, his use of the 2008 financial collapse as an important plot element was excellent. (Actually, after reading At the Sharpe End, I even understand some of what was going on then better than I did before.) When it comes to information technology, which is something that does interest me, I am on much more familiar ground and once again Ashton makes good use of it in his story. At the Sharpe End is unquestionably fiction and some turns of events may seem a bit far-fetched, but overall the novel is realistic and believable. I am not entirely clear about some of the character' motivations, though. The people involved are fairly normal, ordinary people and with a few exceptions even the situations they find themselves in aren't terribly extraordinary. In some ways it is exactly because of this realism that I found the novel to be so interesting.

I enjoyed At the Sharpe End more than I expected I would and it reads quickly. Ashton did have a habit of going off on cultural tangents that tended to break up the flow of the narrative. However, I found the subject matter interesting in most cases and so I didn't mind too terribly much. There were a few things, like one of the character's personality changes, that although explained I wasn't convinced by and a few plot elements that felt extraneous but that I was willing to go along with for the sake of the story. Perhaps what I most enjoyed about At the Sharpe End was the authenticity lent to the novel from Ashton's own experiences in Japan and his excellent use of current events to help shape the book's plot. At the Sharpe End isn't without its occasional awkwardness, but I found reading it a satisfying way to pass the time.

Experiments in Manga ( )
3 vote PhoenixTerran | Jan 12, 2011 |
This novel took me a while to get around to, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Kenneth Sharpe and found his character very believable. Hugh Ashton's Japan is spot-on as well, and his outsider's take on Japanese culture and people is enlightening, informative, and at times humorous. All told, At the Sharpe End is a well written, engrossing thriller that I personally will be sure to recommend to other readers. ( )
2 vote redwood5 | Dec 28, 2010 |
When reading the synopsis of the book I was worried that this book would be a hard read. I believed that either/both the "technical communications" language or the Japanese culture would be over my head somewhat. But, I ended up loving this book. It was an easy book from the very beginning. The author seem to take into account for the readers who know nothing about computers or Japan culture. I usually read fantasy fiction novels but recently decided to go outside my box and read different genres. Thank you, Hugh, for sending this great piece of work to be my first "murder mystery" book. Though I find it hard to call it that because there were so many different aspects to the book. This was an excellent read and would recommended to anyone. Thanks Hugh. ( )
1 vote vkhowll | Dec 9, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Sharpe’s subsequent adventures lead him to Vietnam, South Korea and Shonan, via tussles with gangsters, police and embassy officials, and a brief spell of high-stakes trading on the currency markets. It’s a narrative that could quite easily have tilted into implausibility, but Ashton keeps it grounded by making the main players so frightfully ordinary. Not perfect, but it kept me entertained.
 
a credible story set in Japan that doesn't attempt to rehash "You Only Live Twice." He eschews the obligatory mixed bathing scene, violent altercations with sumo wrestlers and ninja armed with fugu poison. So don't expect gunshots in Ginza, swordplay in Shimbashi or mayhem in Meguro. Kenneth Sharpe's inadvertent adventure may not be quite as harrowing as a Hitchcock plot, but it provided a few chills to take the edge off this summer's oppressive heat.
 
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It had been an aggravating day for Kenneth Sharpe as he trudged his way round central Tokyo.
The erstwhile de facto leader of the Republican party, Henry Seward of New York, now serving as Secretary of State to the newly elected President Lincoln, faced the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase of Ohio, across the drawing room.
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When his business card is found in the pocket of a man who has died under the wheels of a train at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Kenneth Sharpe’s life takes a turn for the worse. A freelance technology consultant usually has no business with burglary, kidnapping or murder, not to mention the overthrow of governments, but these all rapidly become disturbingly familiar parts of his life. The stakes start high, and rise higher, as Sharpe and his friends take on the might of the financial world against the backdrop of the 2008 Wall Street collapse, and the ruin of the global financial markets.
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Hugh Ashton's book At the Sharpe End was available from LibraryThing Member Giveaway.

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