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Reporter Billy Chaka returns for an entertaining third case.

How durable the Chandler-Hammett hard-boiled formula. Here, Adamson (Hokkaido Popsicle, 2002, etc.) trots out its elements—a missing daughter, guilty secrets, mean city streets—and comes up with a fresh case. Chaka visits Tokyo to write a “where are they now?” piece on Gombei Fukagawa, who was Lime in the failed duo Lemon Lime. As Fukagawa plays pachinko, a variation of pinball, Chaka is mesmerized by a woman across the hall. The woman abruptly suffers a seizure, and medics cart her off. Later that night, a driver arrives to escort Chaka to the home of a Mr. Nakoda, who claims he’s the father of the afflicted woman: Miyuki. His relationship with her was difficult, Nakoda says, and he’s now fearful that she may be in danger. Watching the news that night, Chaka sees police pull the lifeless body of a woman from a canal: it’s Miyuki. No fool, yet no hard-bitten Spade or Marlow, the flippant and ironic Chaka trails the non sequiturs, dead ends, and deceptions that follow as he uncovers what led to Miyuki’s death: he’s certain it wasn’t suicide. Seldom as tangled as the streets on which it plays out, the ensuing case engages nonetheless. Chaka teams with Miyuki’s loopy friend Afuro, who takes him to the “hostess” parlor where Miyuki worked. Miyuki, it turns out, was Nakoda’s mistress, not his daughter. And Nakoda, it appears, was linked to something dark that took place at a centuries-old temple that survived the Allied bombings at the end of WWII. Chaka turns to a Professor Kujima, who spins a good yarn about the temple’s history, after which Chaka focuses on a statue stolen from the temple—the stuff this diverting daydream is made of.

Noir light: charming, funny, satisfying.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051623-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2003


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