Raked Gravel Press (2021)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (08/2021)
For those who have somehow missed this absolutely cool, thrilling series, the Detective Hiroshi series, I urge you to not miss out any longer. As an avid reader, I remember when I dove into “The Last Train” back in 2017, and this world was opened up to me. Everything from the colors of the city to the culture, to the calculated and memorable way Michael Pronko worked his characters and plot to make sure a reader could quite literally not put down the book until it had concluded, were just some of the awesome perks that came from the first title. And, by the way, these perks have continued ever since. In fact, I have yet to read a slow or bad book in this series. (“The Moving Blade” 2018 and “Tokyo Traffic” 2020.)
In this latest full-blown thrill-ride, our favorite bringer of justice, Detective Hiroshi, is faced with a crime that focuses on a high-level manager in Japan’s premier media company dead who has been found dead in front of the headquarters’ building. Not taking long to find out what exactly occurred, Detective Hiroshi uncovers the slightly odd fact that the newly deceased manager fell from the roof at the exact same spot as an employee of the company did three years ago – a crime written up as a suicide. But was it? And even if it was, is the manager’s death suicide or was someone actually after the bigwig for some reason?
The author throws both readers and Detective Hiroshi into the high-anxiety days and nights of Tokyo’s large corporations where the pressure seems to be set at 150% at all times. After investigating initially, the one thing Hiroshi exposes is the fact that Japanese workplaces rely on a specific industry process called “zangyo,” which basically is defined as unpaid overtime that will drive employees to quit—or, if they get mad enough that it keeps falling in their laps, something that will drive them to kill people in charge.
Hiroshi is helped by his mentor Takamatasu, as they immerse themselves into the seedier parts of the company – Japan, Inc. – and learn about everything from off-record spending to under-the-table agreements that occur in order to keep the company efficient, and so much more. Being one of the hard-working, Hiroshi’s overtime hours start rising (of course, he gets paid) as he tries to solve the crime, and expose all the dark shadows that fill the murky world of Japanese business.
As I stated in the beginning, the author (who is a lover of all things Tokyo) uses his wealth of sheer passion for the area and its people, and writes this unique color and vibrancy into his characters and their surroundings. This continues to be an international police procedural that is suspenseful and has its own amazing flavor. My advice is to start reading this amazing series today! 5-Stars!!