Nicholai Hel is the most deadly assassin in the world. Half German, half Russian, bought up by a Japanese general; mystic, philosopher, master of the senses, a man of Shibumi. When Hannah Stern escapes as the only survivor from a fake 'Black September' raid staged by the CIA she runs to Hel for help since her uncle saved Hel's life many years ago. Diamond is the man who has to find them, with the help of Fat Boy, controlled, like everyone else - the politicians, the military, and the CIA - by the sinister organization known as the Mother Company. Has an Interquel by Don Winslow, titled Satori, chronicling the events between Hel's imprisonment and his rise as a professional assassin.
One of Trevanian's many novels, and a spiritual successor to The Eiger Sanction. Spanning three continents and half a century, Shibumi is a bestseller of violent, erotic, mind bending power.
This novel contains the following tropes:
- Ambiguously Brown: Hana, Hel's current companion.
- Author Tract: Just like The Eiger Sanction before, Trevanian's fondness for criticizing society reappears here: from sociology to various drivers compensating for something to Americanism. It is done with enough humor that it does not come off as a rant.
- Being Watched: Protagonist Nicholai Hel is capable of sensing when someone is watching him. It is not really telepathy and he isn't wholly sure how he gained that ability, but he speculates it is a result of his senses being sharpened to cope with the lack of external stimulus after spending several years in solitary confinement. Considering he has several other Charles Atlas Superpowers, it's probably not as strange for him.
- Bottomless Pits: Where the final battle takes place: Haman meets his end on one after Hel taunts him to try and escape.
- Color-Coded Eyes: Hel has stark bottle-green eyes that he often covers up with contact lenses when he's on the job.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Almost happens, but then Hel acquires a Basque book and starts learning it from scratch. It is also around this time that his "proximity sense" awakens.
- Improbable Weapon User: Hel's fighting style allows him to use nearly anything as a lethal weapon.
- It's Personal: Diamond's motive for making Hel's life miserable — the US Intelligence officer who disfigured Hel's face was Diamond's brother.
- Ki Manipulation: The interquel Satori details that Hel's fighting style uses ki.
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Thanks to Hel's fighting style, he takes out several terrorists while dressed as a bumbling flight attendant using several mundane items while the plane is in the air.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The people responsible for Hel's torture meet disturbing ends in this manner.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Mother Company.
- Occidental Otaku: Thanks to his upbringing in China and Japan, Hel's demeanor is more Oriental than Occidental, despite his Russian ancestry.
- Older Than They Look: Nicholai Hel is 50 years old, but is described as looking like he's in his thirties.
- Professional Killer: Hel is a professional assassin with an extremely diverse body count.
- Sex God: Nicholai Hel and his mistress are level 4 sexual adepts. Nicholai's favorite variant is where they sit/kneel at opposite walls of an empty room and try to make the other person orgasm first through sheer concentration. He later abandons it because of the lack of affection involved.
- Sole Survivor: Hannah Stern is the only survivor of a raid instigated by the Mother Company.
- Too Dumb to Live: Hannah gets gunned down by Mother Company operatives when she leaves the bunker to gather flowers.