Kinki Lullabye

( 1 )


Wisecracking reporter and reluctant detective Billy Chaka is back. His latest misadventure finds him in Osaka to accept an award for an article he'd written years before about a teenage Bunraku puppet prodigy named Tetsuo. Billy quickly learns he may have been summoned for more than the award -- Tetsuo has been expelled from Osaka's most prestigious theater company following a bloody, unexplained incident involving a fellow puppeteer.

While Billy tries to unravel that mystery, ...

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Wisecracking reporter and reluctant detective Billy Chaka is back. His latest misadventure finds him in Osaka to accept an award for an article he'd written years before about a teenage Bunraku puppet prodigy named Tetsuo. Billy quickly learns he may have been summoned for more than the award -- Tetsuo has been expelled from Osaka's most prestigious theater company following a bloody, unexplained incident involving a fellow puppeteer.

While Billy tries to unravel that mystery, an American man in the hotel room next door is found brutally murdered. Investigating the homicide and its bizarre link to the young puppeteer plunges Billy into a shadowy world where dreams and reality violently intermingle and people are never who they seem. It's a world not far removed from that of the Bunraku theater that flourished in Osaka hundreds of years ago, stylishly recast for the neon-lit urban stage with decrepit gangsters, clueless expatriates, dangerous women, and one seriously deranged hotel employee. Two parts noir and one part playful irreverence, Kinki Lullaby is a sly whodunit that unfolds with the twisted charm of a fever dream.

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Editorial Reviews

Dennis Drabelle
With a shifty plot, shadowy settings, oddball characters and dollops of Bunraku lore sprinkled throughout, Kinki Lullaby is unfailingly entertaining -- and kinki to boot.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In Kinki Lullaby, Isaac Adamson's fourth Billy Chaka adventure (after 2003's Dreaming Pachinko), the wisecracking journalist goes to Osaka to accept an award, but the murder of a fellow American takes Billy into some treacherous waters. The exotic world of Japanese puppetry forms the backdrop to the nonstop action. Agent, Dan Hooker at Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The murder of a young puppetry prodigy draws reporter Bill Chaka to the port city of Osaka in the fourth of this colorful series set in the Land of the Rising Sun. Adamson resides in Chicago. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Billy Chaka returns for his fourth book in Adamson's quirky, fast-paced thriller series. Here, the reporter and sometime private eye journeys to the Osaka district of Japan to claim an award for an article he wrote several years before on Tetsuo Oyamada, an immensely talented Bunraku artist. It becomes clear that the award is a ruse created by the young man's father. Following a fight with another puppeteer, Tetsuo left his troupe to join a group experimenting with the form and has dropped all contact with his family and former coworkers. The elder Oyamada, also a puppeteer, asks Chaka to meet with the headstrong Tetsuo and convince him to return to his former life. The story becomes complicated when an unknown assailant kills an American in the hotel room next to Chaka's. The novel follows a Chandler-style plot, complete with mysterious but beautiful women, seedy underworld characters, and helpful friends who are more than they appear. But the cheeky tongue of Chaka and the colorful and wonderfully odd secondary characters transform the formula into a unique read. Chaka's investigation of these cases exposes readers to the seldom-seen corners of Japanese life, and Adamson's portrayal of the country is colorful and memorable, and glows like an anime cartoon. The two cases twist and intertwine, finally feeding into one another and creating a clever, action-packed ending.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 somewill find a bit of a stretch. Skillful work, but the series formula starts to look a little worn and predictable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060516246
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/21/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Isaac Adamson was born in Fort Collins, CO, during the Year of the Pig. He plays soccer well, guitar poorly, and is currenly living in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Kinki Lullaby

Chapter One

The Kinki Foundation

The Royal Ballroom in Osaka's PanCosmo Hotel was one of those rooms you just couldn't trust. Vaulted ceilings, marble floors, ivory columns, a colossal chandelier -- all of it luxuriant but suspect, impressive in a way that put you immediately on guard. According to the pamphlet, the room was designed at the height of the bubble eighties and modeled after some long-forgotten Shanghai ballroom from the nineteen twenties, which was itself no doubt based on some vanished piece of nineteenth-century Europe. But there were no signs of age, no traces of history whatsoever. Everything glowed with such a perfect sheen you felt suspended in time, utterly disconnected from the outside world. It was the kind of room where you ex-pected someone to walk in and yell "cut," prompting an army of burly stagehands to emerge from nowhere and begin dismantling the scenery while the well-heeled guests revealed themselves as nothing more than extras in rented suits anxious to check their cell phone messages.

But there were only a few guests left in the Royal Ballroom by the time I arrived. Those remaining were clustered in small groups, talking in low tones and exchanging muted smiles. The room lacked the nervous laughter and overdone conviviality of strangers forced to socialize. No one exchanging name cards, no one bowing or shaking hands. Most people weren't even wearing the nametag stickers that came with the information packet. The cocktail kickoff to the Kinki Foundation's annual conference looked less like a meet-and-greet than some solemn reunion to commemorate a fallen comrade long after the cause had been abandoned.

I ordered a Jack and Coke at the bar and watched an eight-piece band dressed like low-rent Liberaces sleepwalk through some old-timey jazz. Looking around, I realized I was not only the sole foreigner in the room, but the youngest conference attendee by a good ten or fifteen years. Unlike the other guests, I didn't wear a tie or even a coat, just my usual wrinkled white cotton button-down, black slacks, and wing tip shoes. You could've mistaken me for one of the catering staff, except even they were better dressed. And like a dumbass, I'd worn the stupid nametag sticker.

Billy Chaka, it read. Youth in Asia Magazine.

I could've taken the damn thing off, but I was too tired to care. My mouth was dry, my eyes stung, and I felt like eighteen hours of mass transit. My trip to Osaka had been booked by Chuck, Youth in Asia magazine's accountant and travel agent -- a conflict of interest if ever there was one -- and he'd sent me on a ridiculous route from Cleveland to Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo Narita, where I had to take a bus to Tokyo Haneda before catching my flight to the New Itami Airport and then eventually arriving in Osaka via another bus.

When I finally checked into the PanCosmo Hotel, there wasn't even time for a shower before rushing off to catch the last of the reception. I'd been invited to Japan's second city to accept some kind of award from the Kinki Foundation for "an extraordinarily positive and authoritative" article I'd written nearly eight years ago about a thirteen-year- old Bunraku puppetry prodigy. That's what the fax they sent said, anyway. While the Bunraku theater experience itself wasn't something I'd soon forget, I could barely remember the article and had never heard of the Kinki Foundation. Still, my editor, Sarah, insisted I attend because Youth in Asia didn't win many awards. We hadn't taken home any prizes since my old editor was at the helm, and even then it was a second-place bowling trophy.

A quick glance at the event schedule sent by the Kinki Foundation told me what I was in for. "Kinki" was a word used to refer to the Kansai area -- Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and the surrounding prefectures. It was considered the ancient heart of Japan, center of art, politics, and commerce long before Tokyo started dominating every aspect of Japanese culture. Nowadays, Osaka enjoyed the same kind of oneway, imagined rivalry with Tokyo that Chicago had with New York. The conference's stated purpose was to "celebrate the unique cultural assets, explore the natural wonders, and highlight the commercial advantages of the incomparable Kansai region." This they were doing through a series of guest lectures, presentations, and panel discussions, followed by an awards ceremony to be held on the final night.

I told Sarah that aside from a Pyongyang prison, the last place I needed to be was in a fancy hotel watching veiled infomercials, listening to stultifying speeches, and accepting pointless awards from a group of geriatric regional boosters. As a teen journalist, I needed to be on the streets of Shibuya finding out why golf shoes were all the rage with high school girls, or hanging out in Nagoya discos trying to trace the origins of the paco paco dance craze. I needed to be writing about Beijing cybercafés or Korean transsexual pop idols or Balinese cult leaders or anything but the Kinki Foundation.

"You're not going there to write," Sarah said. "You're going to accept an award. It's good PR for the magazine. Have a few drinks, make a nice little acceptance speech thanking the kind people of the Kinki Foundation, and come home. Nothing could be simpler."

"I didn't go into journalism for awards," I said.

"You've made that abundantly clear ,"said Sarah.

Then she smiled that smile.

One week later, I was in Osaka.

Kinki Lullaby. Copyright © by Isaac Adamson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent mystery

    Reporter Billy Chaka is in Osaka to accept an award from the Kinki Foundation for a story he wrote on Tetsuo Oyamada, who became a master puppeteer in the Bunraku Theater at fourteen years old. A bit surprised since the article was written almost a decade ago, Billy rationalizes why he should attend. He figures a free trip across the ocean is worth his time, but more important his magazine Youth in Asia could use the publicity though he admits he would rather stay home. ............................ As the gala draws to a close, Tetsuo¿s father asks Billy to learn why Bunraku fired his son. Mumbling he will consider it, Billy talks with American Richard Gale as they ride the elevator in their hotel together. The next day, Bill learns that someone killed Gale. Unable to resist a homicide investigation and deciding to follow up on Mr. Oyamada¿s request, Billy begins making inquiries starting with visits to the puppet theaters where he begins to detect a connection between the play and the homicide not realizing that he alienates the local crime lords........................ The fourth Chaka investigative tale is a fine story filled with amusing asides by the hero and a solid murder mystery. The story line is fun to follow as Billy gets into one mess after another especially when females are involved. Though somewhat identical in plot line to the previous Chaka novels, fans will enjoy Billy¿s westernizing antics in Osaka¿s historical puppet theater............................... Harriet Klausner

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