The Last Train (Detective Hiroshi series, Book 1)
By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: May 2017
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: July 2, 2017
Professor and award-winning essayist, Michael Pronko, takes readers on a fast-paced ride through the streets of Japan in his debut mystery novel, The Last Train.
Detective Hiroshi Shimizu, a little bit emotionally banged up from a recent relationship breakup, is contacted by his mentor and fellow coworker, detective Takamatsu, concerning a gruesome incident involving an American businessman, Steve Deveaux. The American was discovered dead on the train tracks of the Tamachi station in Tokyo. Not really wanting to get involved, Hiroshi originally believes it’s a simple case of suicide, but Takamatsu quickly points out several key points why it has to be murder, one of which is that he believes that foreigners just don’t commit suicide in Tokyo. The only sketchy information they have that points in the direction of murder is a security camera that was outside briefly showing a woman walking behind the man who would be dead in a matter of minutes.
Armed with this knowledge, detectives Hiroshi and Takamatsu along with ex-sumo wrestler, Sakaguchi, embark on a twisting and turning investigative journey that takes them, and readers, into the underbelly of Tokyo in the Roppongi district, famous for its nightlife and Japanese hostess clubs. The author expertly educates readers on both the business and nighttime leisure culture of Japan throughout this story with such well-crafted proficiency that only an individual as uniquely qualified, who has spent time exploring, admiring, and living in Japan, can do.
The most compelling aspect of this thriller is not the typical whodunit that lingers on the minds of readers throughout the story (in fact the murderer is revealed early on), but the motivation behind the decision to murder, and who will be the next target. What also makes this an unusual and compelling novel is that readers will find it hard not to feel a little sympathy for the murderess the detectives are desperately searching for, Michiko Suzuki, who is an alluring former hostess with a complex and harrowing past including being kidnapped. It becomes easily understandable why she seeks the ultimate revenge against a society that has turned her and her family’s world upside down as early as her childhood. But, sympathy or not, she must be stopped before more men die, whether they deserve it or not, but will the detectives find her before she strikes again, or will one of them become her latest victim?
Quill says: The Last Train is a fast-paced thriller that skillfully exposes readers to the seedy urban side of Japan and leaves readers anxiously waiting for the next novel in the detective Hiroshi series.