08 October 2017

The Last Train


By Michael Pronko

Paperback 348 pages
Publisher Raked Gravel Press (5th May 2017)
ISBN-13 978-1942410126

“An elegantly written, precisely observed portrait of a Japanese city and its culture.” Kirkus Reviews

📕My Review

This is a very good police procedural set in Tokyo in which the author excels in creating a vivid slice of Japanese life.

Hiroshi Shimizu is called upon to investigate the murder of an American businessman who appears to have been pushed to his death beneath a speeding train. He's captured on security camera, very drunk, with a beautiful Japanese woman. Hiroshi and partner Takamatsu are drawn in to the seedy world of hostess clubs in the search for the woman and the motive for the man's gruesome fate.

Author Michael Pronko is a professor of American Literature at Tokyo's Meiji Gakuin University and has lived in Japan for over twenty years. His writing is skilled and hugely knowledgeable on Japanese culture and customs. His descriptions really bring the book to life and make for fascinating reading. The characterisation is excellent; Hiroshi's failed relationship with Linda is perfectly portrayed and he comes across as both engaging and grounded. The plot is believable but, in my opinion, lacks a little in excitement. However, for anyone wanting a no-frills representation of life in modern Japan, Pronko is the go-to author.

My thanks to author Michael Pronko for providing a copy of this book.

Barnsey's Books Rating 

Other reviews:
The Moving Blade

📗The Blurb

Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. He’s lost his girlfriend and still dreams of his time studying in America, but with a stable job, his own office and a half-empty apartment, he’s settled in. 

When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentor Takamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step—or a push—away. 

Takamatsu drags Hiroshi out to the hostess clubs and skyscraper offices of Tokyo in search of the killer. She’s trying to escape Japan for a new life by playing a high-stakes game of insider information. To find her, Hiroshi goes deeper and deeper into Tokyo’s intricate, ominous market for buying and selling the most expensive land in the world. 

When Takamatsu inexplicably disappears, Hiroshi teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi. They scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, corporate offices and industrial wastelands to find out where Takamatsu went, and why one woman would be driven to murder when she seems to have it all. 

After years in America and lost in neat, clean spreadsheets, Hiroshi confronts the stark realities of the biggest city in the world, where inside information can travel in a flash from the top investment firms to the bottom of the working world, where street-level punks and teenage hostesses sell their souls for a small cut of highly lucrative land deals. 

Hiroshi’s determined to cut through Japan’s ambiguities—and dangers—to find the murdering ex-hostess before she extracts her final revenge—which just might be him.

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