Pronko’s (The Last Train, 2017, etc.) Tokyo-based thriller follows a detective’s search for a manuscript so valuable some will kill for it.
Hiroshi Shimizu’s injury from a previous case is the perfect excuse for the detective to work white-collar crimes from a computer. But Sakaguchi, Tokyo’s head of homicide, needs his English-speaking adeptness, courtesy of Hiroshi’s having studied in Boston. On a bisected body, a medical examiner has found a flash drive that contains images of woodblock prints and corresponding notes in English. It doesn’t seem like much until detectives learn the only specialist who could find the physical prints has just died—American diplomat Bernard Mattson, murdered by burglars at his home. As Hiroshi and others investigate, it’s soon clear someone is after Mattson’s manuscript. But what exactly is in the manuscript is the biggest mystery: The diplomat is linked to myriad sensitive issues, from U.S. military bases in Japan to the Status of Forces Agreement with America. Hiroshi is also keeping an eye on Jamie, Mattson’s Japanese-American daughter from New York, who’s in Tokyo for her father’s funeral. She may be a target; whoever wants the manuscript will likely assume she knows its location. Pronko’s thriller elegantly depicts Japanese customs within an American-style hard-boiled procedural. For example, lovingly detailed sushi preparation contrasts with the police station, a site of whiteboard scrawls, corkboards covered in notes, and piles of folders next to out-of-date computers. The concise mystery runs at full tilt with characters that focus assiduously on the investigation. Accordingly, welcome humor is plot-relevant: detectives at crime scenes alternate heading off the assistant chief, who’s more annoying than helpful. Hiroshi, in his second appearance (along with fellow detectives), is a winsome but unassuming protagonist. Though he’d rather be at his computer, he faces a blade-wielding killer with confidence and relatively few complaints.
A tight, rock-solid installment in a series that’s only getting better.