Jaunty detective/reporter Billy Chaka is back in Japan solving a (mostly) engaging case.
In Chaka’s fourth outing (Dreaming Pachinko, 2003, etc.), author Adamson hews to the template he’s designed for the previous three installments. This time, Adamson sends journalist Billy Chaka to Osaka to accept an award from the Kinki Foundation for a profile Chaka wrote about Tetsuo Oyamada, who, at 14, had become a master puppeteer in Osaka’s prestigious Bunraku Theater. Once again, events conspire to compel journalist Chaka to track a murder. First, Tetsuo’s father asks Chaka to find out why Bunraku dismissed his son from their company. Mulling the request as he rides the elevator to his room at the Pan Cosmo hotel, Chaka has a brief, inconsequential conversation with Richard Gale, an American. Then Chaka comes across an attractive Japanese woman passed out on a landing. The next morning Chaka learns Gale has been murdered, his throat slashed with a razor blade. Adamson effects a satisfying level of suspense as he sets Chaka to tying up the seemingly disparate elements of the case. As usual, Chaka fires off some good one-liners, and his descriptions of Osaka often read like travel journalism. At the city’s fascinating puppet theater (based on actual troupes), Chaka observes links between the unfolding play and the hotel murder. He also spots in the audience the woman he’d seen on the hotel landing, who subsequently becomes another of Adamson’s haunting noir women. Chaka follows her leads, investigates the family of the victim’s wife, and parries with the local crime syndicate, Komoriuta-kai, in some well-done action scenes. Funny, surprising things happen on the way to the solution, which some will find a bit of a stretch.
Skillful work, but the series formula starts to look a little worn and predictable.