The plot and character development left me wanting more, however. I saw all but one plot twist coming (But to be fair, the one plot twist I didn't see coming was really awesome!), and the characters never felt fully developed to me. They came close, especially in the context of Violet's relationship with her dad, but it never got beyond the narrator telling me how she felt and moving on quickly instead of showing me the emotion and weaving it throughout the narrative. There were also a few instances when something dangerous and clearly important happened and Violet inexplicably chose not to tell an adult. Given the high level of danger surrounding her dad and herself, I found that hard to believe.
However, I don't necessarily think any of those things are detrimental to the story itself. This reads like the next step up from tween and chapter book mysteries. Fans of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and other intrepid female sleuth series will love this. Fans of Manga will love it, too. It fits nicely as a stepping stone between younger mystery series and the more hard-boiled adult series waiting for the reader in a few years. I will absolutely recommend this to my own kids, and I look forward to the next book from Ms. Renn.
Tokyo Heist would make an excellent read for younger readers looking to transition to YA or for middle graders. The content, writing, and characters definitely would fit with that age group well. Violet definitely felt like a young 16 to me. There were definitely times where she would be trying to figure something out and I would be headdesking at how obvious this particular part of the mystery was. This was not the case with every single clue by any means, but did happen more than once. I also couldn't believe that the FBI was impressed by some of her suggestions, since most of them seemed pretty obvious; maybe they were just being nice.
Of course, Violet does do some serious sleuthing too, along with the Scooby Doo variety. Where Violet and Tokyo Heist really shine are in the sections focusing on artwork. As the mystery progressed into more art-based research and sleuthing, the pace definitely picked up and I was less able to point out the obvious solution.
It's also great that you can totally tell how passionate Violet is about art, both other people's and her own. In fact, the artistic descriptions were so vivid that I occasionally sort of felt like I was reading a manga rather than a novel. This would have made a stellar manga or graphic novel, btws. It would have been like Inception, when it got into the Kimono Girl scenes!
Part of what made Violet seem so young was her manga obsession, which was also something I enjoyed, being a lover of manga as well. However, Violet takes it a little too far, as a young teen might do. Whenever she's stuck in her mystery-solving, she asks herself "WWVSD?" (What would Vampire Sleuths do?), because that is her favorite manga. She also tries to figure out how to handle her crush on her best friend by looking to manga for advice. Friends, I adore manga, but DO NOT DO THIS. No wonder she's having so much difficulty with her romance, poor dear.
Tokyo Heist is a fun read full of Asian culture (ftw!). If you're looking for something light with an entertaining mystery and some diversity, Renn's book is definitely worth picking up.