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Literature / John Rain

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A series of novels by author and former CIA employee Barry Eisler. Deals with Hitman with a Heart John Rain, who specializes in killing in such a way that it looks like natural causes. Rain's years of training in the Special Forces, CIA, and as an assassin for hire manifest themselves in a deep-seated paranoia and an inability to trust anyone, which complicates his personal relationships.

The novel Rain Fall was made into a 2009 movie, starring Kippei Shina and Gary Oldman.


A TV series based on the novels is currently in development, with Keanu Reeves onboard to star in and Executive Produce, alongside Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.

Tropes featured in this work include:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Rain keeps flirting with the idea of retiring, but never goes through with it due to circumstances or the belief that he can't give up the life.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A literary version. While there are some nasty fight scenes which often leave Rain's opponent dead, or severely handicapped for life, there are scenes where Rain is just walking through the night streets of Tokyo (or wherever he might be) and reminiscing about his childhood days, the friends he has lost, the psychological trauma of violence, etc.
  • Action Girl: Delilah. Thanks to her Mossad training, she's a skilled gunfighter and very competent in a fistfight. She might not be able to go toe-to-toe with Rain or Dox, but any run-of-the-mill mooks in her way are easily dealt with in short order.
    • In later books, Livia Lone is another shining example. Despite just being a Seattle cop, she easily keeps pace with a crew of world-class assassins in both combat shooting and hand-to-hand combat. She's one of the very few grapplers in the series on par with Rain himself.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • Delilah's job with Mossad is to seduce targets to get information. She's routinely despised by her colleagues for her methods, although they have no problem using the intelligence she provides.
    • Similarly, although Dox was respected in the Marines for his sniper skills, he was shunned because he didn't fit the Cold Sniper stereotype.
    • Rain himself; when growing up in Japan and the United States he was bullied for his foreign blood. This only increased his sense of isolation from society.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Delilah does this during an argument with Rain in The Killer Ascendant. It's just as well, as Rain was just about to walk out on her (she'd called in a colleague from Mossad against his wishes, which Rain viewed as betrayal of his trust). Rain is noticeably thrown by the Love Confession, comes to his senses and accepts the help of her colleague.
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  • Armoured Closet Gay: Larson is prepared to kill the other members of his team rather than have them find out he's homosexual, even though none of them particularly care.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Averted. The martial arts represented are realistic, brutal and efficient.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In-Universe when Rain tries to mislead a couple of Yakuza thugs as to his identity by speaking Chinese. Unfortunately the only Chinese he knows is Wau ai ni which translates to I love you.
  • Assassins Are Always Betrayed:
    • In A Clean Kill In Tokyo, Rain discovers that he's been working all along for his CIA nemesis from The Vietnam War.
    • In Extremis, Rain goes to great lengths to protect Midori, who ends up betraying him to the Yakuza in the belief that he'll always be a threat to their son.
    • In Requiem for an Assassin, Dox is kidnapped to force Rain to do three hits. Rain doesn't have to be told that one of the hits will be a trap, to ensure he won't survive to take revenge.
    • In The Detachment, Horton hires Rain, Dox, Treven and Larison to forestall The Coup which he claims is being plotted by senior American officials. As with Hilger, the third 'target' is a set-up, Horton is manipulating everyone and intends to Leave No Witnesses.
  • As You Know: Justified by having Rain being Properly Paranoid, so he keeps explaining things to his co-workers (much to their annoyance) to ensure that they are all thinking on the same page or understand the need for his security precautions.
  • The Atoner:
    • Tatsu tries to play on this to recruit Rain for his own plans, but Rain is too cynical to really take it on board.
    • In Redemption Games, Rain hesitates to kill a target on seeing he has a son the same age as himself when he lost his own father. He eventually kills the man, but gives all the money from that contract to their family, pretending the target left it for them in his will.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Like John Rain, author Barry Eisler is an accomplished martial artist; likewise, Rain's workout routine (described in depth in the books) is based on Eisler's own.
    • After working for a short time at the CIA Directorate Of Operations, Eisler became a lawyer and lived in Japan for several years. Hence the lovingly described Tokyo settings and Japanese cultural practices.
  • Badass Crew:
    • In The Detachment, you have John Rain, Dox, Ben Treven and Daniel Larison. Seriously, you would be scared shitless if even one of them came after you. When all four come after you, oh boy.
    • Also applies to the main Power Trio of Dox, Delilah, and Rain as well. Each of them are highly skilled operatives, and are almost unstoppable when working together.
  • Badass Israeli: Mossad agent and Rain's sometime lover Delilah, as well as other members of her team like Gil and Boaz.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: On seeing the spotter for a hit squad sent to kill him, Rain walks up to the man and tells him there's been a mistake — he's not the man they've been sent to kill and his friends are waiting for them at the hotel to discuss the matter (actually Rain has just killed them). The man is so confused he walks along with Rain until he's in an area with no witnesses where Rain can kill him too.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Part of the reason Dox turns down a contract to kill Rain is because the latter treated him with respect at a time when he was still unproven among the other mercenaries in Afghanistan.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Dox is constantly the friendliest and most chipper person around, while also being an extremely skilled sniper and formidable hand-to-hand combatant.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Dox is a huge, very friendly man who LOVES a good fight.
  • Broken Pedestal: Midori, in a big way for Rain.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: In The Detachment a terrorist massacre at a school is planned to rouse public anger for a Day of the Jackboot conspiracy.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Dox will hit on any attractive woman he meets, but he's generally respectful and doesn't overstep the bounds of decency.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Well CIA evil and Japanese police force cooperative as the case may be. As the series progressed however, Rain cultivated a friendship with an officer who rises to become Tokyo Station chief making this trope more subdued.
  • Cool Old Guy: In the later novels, Rain is at least 70, but still a suave, massively badass assassin with fine tastes in whiskey and jazz.
  • Combat Pragmatist: To say Rain is a brutal fighter is an understatement.
  • Contract on the Hitman:
    • In Redemption Games Rain and Dox find themselves on Mossad's hit list after they bungle an assignment, apparently killing two CIA agents in the process.
    • In The Killer Ascendant, Hilger kidnaps Dox and uses him as leverage to force Rain to kill three people. Rain quickly works out that the last target is nonexistent. Rain himself is the intended victim, as Hilger has no intention of having Rain come after him once the job is done.
    • In The Detachment, our anti-heroes find themselves on the Presidential hit list, blamed for a series of terrorist acts they were actually trying to stop.
  • The Cracker: Rain's departed friend, Harry.
  • Cultured Badass: In addition to being a deadly assassin, Rain is also a connoisseur of Jazz music and single malt whiskey.
  • Deadly Delivery: Rain has used this on a couple of occasions.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After Rain breaks up with Delilah, he runs across a loud-mouthed Jerkass who annoyed him earlier and shoves the man's mobile phone between his teeth, proving that you can fit a square peg in a round hole if you shove hard enough.
  • The Dreaded: Rain is this to what few adversaries of his who manage to stay alive, with Yamaoto scared shitless of him and still taking precautions against him years after they cross paths.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Rain has killed people working for the CIA and Tatsu. That doesn't stop either party from wanting to employ his services, because his skills are in short supply.
    • Rain discovers Delilah sabotaged his relationship with Midori, but decides to forgive her after a What the Hell, Hero? speech from Dox, and the realisation that Delilah genuinely regrets her actions.
  • Fight Clubbing: In Hard Rain, a Yakuza boss runs the occasional Deadly Game using members of a dojo he's running, but Rain points out that he'd barely break even on the gambling money, when set against the large prize money awarded to the winners. Tatsu suggests that the actual goal is either to desensitize the fighters to killing so they can be recruited as assassins, or so the boss has a pool of muscle he can draw upon if Japan falls into political turmoil.
  • First-Person Perspective: The books are mainly told from Rain's POV, but later novels have chapters from the third person viewpoint of other characters.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: In the titular novel, the Detachment fits very well into this:
    • Rain: Melancholic.
    • Dox: Sanguine.
    • Larison: Choleric.
    • Treven: Phlegmatic.
  • Friend to All Children: Dox is good with people in general, but especially with kids, something Rain admits he envies.
  • Friend on the Force: Kanezaki, a low ranking CIA officer who rises to become chief of Tokyo station and Tatsuhiko, former director of Keisatsucho who still has great influence within Japanese law enforcement.
  • Friendly Sniper: Former Marine sniper Dox. Dox is actually short for "Unorthodox," a nickname he received for not fitting the Cold Sniper stereoptype. Interestingly though, when he does get behind the scope, he totally becomes more focused and cold.
  • Genius Bruiser: Rain. Unlike most fictional assassins who normally resort to shooting their targets, he prefers to strategically sabotage the environment around his victims in order to leave no trace of human involvement. He's also a near unstoppable martial artist, and a connoisseur of Tokyo's Jazz scene.
  • Got Me Doing It: Rain occasionally grumbles that some of Dox's mannerisms are wearing off on him.
  • Heroic BSoD: In Redemption Games, Rain freezes up when he's about to kill a man with a son the same age Rain was when he was orphaned.
  • Hidden Depths: In later books, the sociopathic killer Larison is revealed to be a huge Tolkein fan, lampshading it by admitting that there's a lot people don't know about him.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Two of Rain's rules are "no women, no children," and "principal targets only" (no hits on family members/etc. to send a message).
    • Also applies for many of his associates, such as Dox and Delilah. They might be killers for hire, but they're still human and generally try to do the right thing.
  • Honey Trap
    • Delilah is a Femme Fatale Spy for the Mossad.
    • Rain realises something is seriously wrong when Harry hitches up with a beautiful hostess at an expensive nightclub. Harry refuses to listen to Rain's warning, and is murdered when she lures him up onto a roof where his death by suicide can be faked.
    • In Redemption Games, Rain gleefully mocks Dox when he almost takes a Thai ladyboy back to his hotel. Rain realises almost too late that [s]he was separating them for a kidnapping team, the idea being that if the notoriously paranoid Rain suspected something was off-key, he'd just assume his Gut Feeling was reacting to her actually being a man.
  • I Have Your Wife
    • In Requiem for an Assassin, Hilger kidnaps Dox to force Rain to carry out several hits for him. Of course both sides know that Hilger can't afford to let either of them live, because they'd come after him for revenge.
    • In The Detachment, after discovering that Horton has betrayed them, our (anti)heroes kidnap his daughter and hold her for ransom. Because of the above incident, Dox is most uncomfortable with this.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Hilger assassinates a US official to prove his bona fides as a Rogue Agent to a terrorist group. Turns out he believes The End Justifies The Means, and is actually trying to infiltrate the group.
  • Improvised Weapon: A necessity in Japan where Rain finds it difficult to get hold of a firearm on short notice.
  • Inherent in the System: Tatsu, Hilger and Horton find themselves up against this.
    Hilger: People used to think 'broken' meant a system that can only respond to a crisis. But that's not broken. Broken is a system that can't even respond to a crisis.
  • In Love with the Mark: Rain falls in love with Midori, the daughter of a man he's killed. Deconstructed in that after she learns that he killed her father, she hates him for a long time, and eventually betrays him.
  • I Shall Taunt You: When Dox is held prisoner in The Killer Ascendant, he keeps his morale up by taunting the one member of the professional team of mercenaries holding him who is easier to provoke, but Dox also does it in the hope of creating an opportunity to escape, knowing that the man would have to get him alone to get payback. It very nearly backfires when his escape attempt fails and the man decides to castrate Dox on the spot, only for John Rain to pull a Big Damn Heroes.
  • It's Personal:
    • In Hard Rain, Rain is asked to kill an Evil Counterpart hitman. He decides it's too risky and refuses the assignment, until the hitman kills Harry. Rain even breaks his "no women" rule to kill a Honey Trap who assisted in the murder.
    • After the events of Redemption Games Hilger is eager for revenge on Rain and Dox in Requiem for an Assassin, but later regrets this and feels he should have tried to recruit them instead. Unfortunately having kidnapped Dox and tortured him for Rain's contact number, Hilger knows it's too late for that to work.
  • I Work Alone: Averted; Rain would prefer to work alone, but it's just not practical or even safe. Mossad agent Boaz tells Rain that no-one works alone any more, and Rain is the only operator he knows who still insists on doing so. Even Dox wonders if their skills have become meaningless in an increasingly surveillance-heavy world, where the only way to keep working is when Big Brother Is Employing You.
  • Just a Stupid Accent:
    • Rain exaggerates his Japanese accent when working in the United States, knowing people will pigeonhole him as a harmless Japanese businessman.
    • Rain does a Deadly Delivery as a Korean restaurant worker, only to find the receptionist can speak some of the language because her boyfriend is Korean. He just exaggerates his accent again — after all, you don't have to be Korean to work for a Korean restaurant.
  • Knife Nut: Both Dox and Rain in later books, with Eisler providing loving descriptions of the high-quality blades they use. When possible, Rain favors a Benchmade folder, while Dox is particularly fond of a Fred Perrin Le Griffe he picked up a few books in. Rain's interest in knives is largely pragmatic; as a frequent international traveler, knives are easy to obtain when he gets to a new location, easy to conceal, and just as deadly as a firearm in close quarters while being much more quiet and discreet. Also, he's had a couple close calls with knife-wielding opponents when he was unarmed.
  • Loner-Turned-Friend: Rain with Dox, and earlier Harry with Rain.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Rain's specialty is assassinations that look either like accidents or natural causes.
  • Mama Bear: Midori. Which backfires on Rain — he fails to anticipate that Midori will betray him to protect their son.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Tatsu, which Rain calls him on. Colonel Horton in The Detachment.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Rain weeps on holding his son in his arms for the first and last time.
    • Dox cries in a release of tension after being rescued by Rain Just in Time after days of confinement and torture.
    Dox: Oh why did it have to happen in front of you? Now you'll make fun of me for the rest of my life.
    Rain: I'm going to tell all your girlfriends, too.
  • Master of None: Ben Treven. While he's a world-class gunfighter in his own right, he lacks a specialty when paired up with the rest of the Detachment. He does not have Rain's martial-arts skills, Dox's sniping, or Larison's pure bloodlust.
  • Mexican Standoff: After realising they've been betrayed in The Detachment, a minute twitch by Trevan leads to everyone pointing guns at each other. Fortunately Dox is there to defuse the situation by putting his gun to his own head and quoting from Blazing Saddles.
  • Motor Mouth: Once Dox starts talking, it's very difficult to get him to stop, much to Rain's chagrin.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Happens on occasion, with random thugs often finding out (in the last few seconds of their life) that Rain was not just another middle-aged salaryman.
    • Also done in the Ben Treven novel "Inside Out", with a Florida P.I. being hired to track Larison. It takes a handful of corpses for the P.I. to realize he's outclassed and cut all ties.
  • Neck Snap: Thanks to Rain's martial arts expertise, he uses this a lot for a Coup de Grâce.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Rain prefers to rely on his martial arts skill (knives are messy, after all) but a couple of near misses against knife-wielding opponents, and the realization that his skills are fading with age, causes Rain to start carrying a knife regularly.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Averted; Rain has killed people who aren't his principle targets or even soldiers working for them. In Extremis he has Dox snipe the valets outside a nightclub just because he can't afford to take the chance of them alerting someone inside, and he was rushing to protect Delilah at the time. Even the principle targets have sometimes done nothing wrong — Midori's father was working to expose corruption, for instance. In The Killer Ascendant, Rain has no trouble carrying out a contract on an innocent man that Hilger wants dead, if it saves Dox's life.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Rain demands to know what the difference is between Hilger and Kanezaki. Kanezaki replies, "The ends" which are the exact words Hilger used earlier to justify his actions.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Rain notes that Dox tends to play up his "good ol' boy" image, hiding how perceptive and deadly he really is.
  • Odd Friendship: Rain and Dox.
  • Once an Episode: In nearly every book, a significant portion of a chapter will be focused on Rain (or his associates) shopping and picking up a variety of innocuous items. These items will then become a Chekhov's Armoury for the latest assassination.
  • Origins Episode: "Graveyard Of Memories". Set in the 1970's, it centers around a young John Rain who takes part in the Real Life Lockheed bribery scandal, finds then loses his first love and becomes a fugitive from the CIA.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Treven in The Detachment. While he's a top-notch gunfighter (with Larison's inner monologue mentioning that Treven had the best combat shooting skills of the crew), he felt out of place in the spycraft aspects of their mission, especially compared to Rain.
  • Power of Trust: Invoked by Rain when he suspects (accurately) that Larison is planning to kill them and keep all the diamonds for himself. Knowing they aren't so different and aware of how his own viewpoint changed due to Dox's actions, he hands Larison a silenced Glock and gives him the option of either leaving with his share of the diamonds, or accompanying them to stop a terrorist atrocity. Larison (who was expecting to get shot on the spot) is too stunned to say much, but does end up going with them, despite having refused earlier.
  • Properly Paranoid: The people John Rain works with get annoyed with his constant lecturing on security. Turns out a lot of it is justified.
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: When Rain first meets rookie CIA agent Kanezaki he breaks the neck of Kanezaki's bodyguard (after the bodyguard had already been immobilized) just to make it clear he really is a cold-blooded killer.
  • Rogue Agent:
    • Biddle, the CIA station chief in Hard Rain, is running an operation that's been officially shut down, and using Kanezaki as the Fall Guy by arranging to frame him as a rogue.
    • Tatsu is running his own Cowboy Cop operation to assist reformist elements of Japanese society. He tries to recruit Rain as his assassin, with limited success.
    • Jim Hilger is a CIA agent who's eventually revealed to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • Daniel Larison is an ISA operative who plans to blackmail the US government for a fortune in diamonds, by threatening to release video of prisoners being tortured.
    • Colonel Horton's role is ambiguous — is he trying to stop a Day of the Jackboot like he claims, or is he one of the conspirators looking to advance his own interests?
  • Scenery Porn: Eisler delights in describing the intricacies of whatever city the protagonists find themselves in, with particular interest for Tokyo and Paris.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Rain's sexual encounters tend to be either this or Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex.
  • Sliding Down The Slippery Slope: A Discussed Trope in Hard Rain with various people being deliberately desensitized to killing, espionage or prostitution, in order to draw them into those worlds.
  • Talking to Themself: In The Killer Ascendant, while smoking dope in a coffee bar in Rotterdam, Rain has a conversation with 'The Iceman', the cold-blooded killer part of his personality, who derides his belief that he can retire from his life as a Professional Killer.
  • That's What I Would Do: Rain whenever The Hunter Becomes the Hunted.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Rain notes that Kanezaki, initially an inexperienced CIA agent, rapidly improves in confidence and bargaining ability as time goes on.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Rain and, in later books, Larison both exhibit this over time, mainly due to developing a network of people they can trust. They both blame it on Dox.
  • Torture Always Works: Discussed Trope in Requiem for an Assassin. Hilger waterboards Dox for information on how to contact Rain. He points out that Torture Is Ineffective if you're just fishing for information, as you've no idea what's true and what's being made up to make the pain stop. However for specific information that you can verify once you have it, it's very effective.
  • True Companions: While Rain is solitary in the first few books, the series has him develop a network of friends and associates who he can count on to have his back, and vice-versa.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Rain is an average-sized, middle aged Asian man who doesn't look to be much of a threat. A veritable army of mercenaries, goons, and assassins have discovered to their own peril just how false that is. This is actually mentioned as one of Rain's distinct advantages; while others (such as Larison) radiate a dangerous demeanor, Rain does not, allowing him to quickly close in for the kill without alerting suspicion.
  • Yellowface: Half Japanese/half American, Rain has had plastic surgery and uses hair dye to appear full-blooded Japanese, in order to better fit in. Ironically, he usually goes by his American name, John Rain, in place of his given Japanese name, Junichi Fujiwara.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Part of Rain's standard operating procedure. After learning what he needs from the target of the day, he'll kill them to avoid any potential backlash.
  • You Owe Me:
    • There's a lot of bargaining of favours whenever Rain interacts with Friend on the Force characters.
    • Dox throws away a bag containing five million dollars to carry Rain to safety. Rain himself wouldn't do that, so he's willing to go to great lengths to protect Dox in payment.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite being a sociopathic killer, Larison believes in this. After being bailed out by Rain, he makes it clear that he will kill anyone Rain askes him to.
  • You Talk Too Much!: The Stoic Rain is constantly exasperated by Dox's amiable discourse. At one point he even ends up Removing the Earpiece so he won't have to listen.
  • Weapon of Choice: While Rain prefers hand-to-hand combat, his go-to sidearm is the H&K Mark 23. Dox prefers a Wilson Combat 1911 and variants of the M40 Sniper Rifle, befitting his status as a former Marine.
  • World of Badass: Given that the series focuses on clandestine operations and hired killers, it's no surprise that nearly every major character is some form of highly-trained law enforcement agent or special operations veteran.

Alternative Title(s): Barry Eisler


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