THE RELUCTANT RONIN by James Melville

THE RELUCTANT RONIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Japan's Superintendent Otani, of the Hyogo district near Osaka, is once again personally embroiled in a police matter (Go Gently, Gaijin, 1986). Marianna Van Wijk, a Dutch national in Japan on a business-study grant, has been found murdered in an arson-gutted warehouse owned by mobster Motoyama. In her purse is a snapshot of Otani's family--wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson--and it soon becomes evident that she'd been having an affair with son-in-law Shimizu. So the super takes a leave of absence, leaving the case to trusted aides Noguchi, Hara, and Kimura, and subtly steering operations by phone while he concentrates on tracking down the now-vanished Shimizu. Eventually, tenacious questioning and the following up of leads produce a connection between Marianna's roommate Penny Johnston, Penny's passionate love affair, a burgeoning pharmaceutical company, and the criminal Motoyama. Otani, meanwhile, has had to review his son-in, law's long-gone radical activist years to find the key to his present mind-set and whereabouts. There's an elaborately engineered but superfluous trap set along the way--with a fairly surprising but weakly motivated murderer at the end. As usual with Melville's work, best enjoyed by those who like the exotic locale, a look at Japanese police methods, and a non-touristy, behind-the-shoji-screen glimpse of a life-style slowly changing but still very different from their own.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Scribners