Raked Gravel Press (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (09/2020)
“Tokyo Traffic,” by Michael Pronko, is an international crime drama centering on human trafficking, using a young Thai girl named Sukanya as the catalyst. This compelling story has Sukanya fleeing her captors and trying to survive on the streets of Tokyo. It isn’t as easy as she thought, but much easier than the abuse she ran from. When Detective Hiroshi enters the picture, a pit of vipers opens up, and he has his hands full as he investigates murder, trafficking, and a conspiracy that leads to shocking revelations.
Although the material is dark and we hear about trafficking on a daily basis, this novel personalizes it with empathetic characters and realistic situations. When you hear it on the news, the subject is boiled down to statistics, but when an author brings it to life like Pronko has, you know the victims are real people, and so are the ones trying to help them.
Though this is a violent tale, it mirrors the stark reality of trafficking. The characters are trapped and need a way out, as do victims in real life. This author takes the elements of plot, characters, and pace, and delivers high-caliber entertainment, wrapped in today’s social issues. Sukanya is a sympathetic character. You root for her survival, and her successful quest in finding a better life. But for some victims, there are no happy endings, as Detective Hiroshi knows all too well. You may think this is a depressing story, and it does have its downside, but overall has sparks of life and hope running through it.
There are elements of the classic noir detective story, but with a new twist tackling modern problems. This detective is sharp, and he has to be if he’s going to get to the bottom of it all. Pronko’s immediate style puts you into the guts of the action but will pull at your heartstrings at the same time. The city of Tokyo shines brightly, with grit and glamour, and the author isn’t afraid to tear the wrapper off of this dynamic city. “Tokyo Traffic,” by Michael Pronko, is a crime thriller you mustn’t pass up.