Tengu – The Mountain Goblin
A Connor Burke Martial Arts Thriller
By George Donohue
Reviewed by Christopher Caile
This is a fun and fast paced martial arts thriller. It is the third in the Conner Burke series that includes Donohue’s other books, Deshi and Sensei. In many ways I liked Tengu best of the three – a tale that mixes history, strategy, and an in depth understanding of martial arts philosophy with realistic action and mystery – all set within a world of twisted psyche, terrorism and murder. The story builds from a rather slow introduction to fast paced action, which is full of surprises. Burke is pulled into its vortex of danger and intrigue along side various law enforcement, military and secret service agencies in the US, Japan and the Philippines.
In the story Conner Burke, a martial arts expert and professor of Asian Studies, is hired by the US Military on a ruse, to help analyze their martial arts training, but he quickly finds himself embroiled in events beyond his wildest dreams – to help rescue his teacher Yamashita who has been taken captive in the Philippines. Yamashita had been a go-between to help free a young female anthropologist who had been captured while doing cultural studies in the mountains of Mindanao (Philippines). Yamashita was a friend of the girl’s wealthy Japanese family and had been requested by the girl’s captors. Both Yamashita and Burke are motivated by allegiances, duty and honor. The captor of the Japanese anthropologist is a Japanese master in the old Samurai forms of martial arts. He is known as the Tengu (mountain demon). And he has turned psychotic, a man driven by terrorist ideology and personal hate focused against the West. His personal vendetta stems from remorse over the loss of traditional Japanese culture and spiritual essence seen dissipated by the influence Western culture. The Tengu has been training a group of Asian terrorists -- leading to violent action and entrapment of both Yamashita and Burke, whose lives hang by a thread in a remote jungle hideout deep in the mountains of Mindanao.
In this thriller outward action is contrasted against the inward worlds of the actors, as philosophies, motives of duty, honor and character are set against betrayal, revenge, and brutality. Burke and Yamashita’s training giving them strength, discipline and spirit to face pain, whereas the Tengu is consumed by evil, vengeance and demonic aberration. Also interesting is the intricate and complicated relationship between teacher and student in traditional martial arts, the depth of their relationship and strength of their bonds and duties to each other. The book is a fast and captivating read, and this reviewer recommends it. I look forward to the next book in the series.
About The Reviewer:
Christopher Caile is founder and Editor of FightingArts.com