Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. He’s lost his girlfriend and still dreams of his time studying in America, but with a stable job, his own office and a half-empty apartment, he’s settled in.
When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentor Takamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step—or a push—away.
After years in America and lost in neat, clean spreadsheets, can Hiroshi handle the bleak, stark realities of the biggest city in the world? Takamatsu drags Hiroshi out to the hostess clubs and skyscraper offices of Tokyo in search of the killer. To find her, Hiroshi goes deeper and deeper into Tokyo’s intricate, gritty and menacing world of buying and selling the most expensive land in the world.
When Takamatsu inexplicably disappears, Hiroshi teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi. They scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, corporate offices and industrial wastelands to find out where Takamatsu went and why an average-seeming woman would be driven to murder.
In the huge, complex and rigid hierarchies of Japan, inside information about real estate can travel in a flash from the top investment firms to the bottom of the working world, where street-level punks and teenage hostesses sell their souls for a small cut of lucrative land deals.
Hiroshi catches traces of the suspect, but in a megalopolis of 40 million people, finding one woman is nearly impossible. If he can’t find her, more businessmen will die, she’ll flee the country and the cutthroat world of buying and selling property will never change when stakes are high.
Hiroshi’s determined to cut through Japan’s ambiguities—and dangers—to find the murdering ex-hostess before she extracts her final revenge—which just might be him.
About the Author
But the travel bug had me and I went to Lawrence for a Master's in Education. When I got a call from China offering me a teaching position, I took it. I lived in Beijing for two years, teaching English, traveling the country and writing. I was lucky enough to meet my wife there.
I spent more time traveling, taught English in Tokyo for two years, and then returned to graduate school in Comparative Literature in Madison, Wisconsin. When that degree finished up, my wife and I went back to Beijing for a year before finally settling again in Tokyo (all rather circular). Somewhere in there, I completed a PhD in English at the University of Kent at Canterbury, writing about film adaptations of Charles Dickens' novels.
Now, I live with my wife (who teaches Asian film and literature) in western Tokyo and work as a professor of American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University. I teach seminars in contemporary novels and film adaptations. I also teach classes in American indie film and American music and art. After talking with my students about Jackson Pollock, Bessie Smith, or Kurt Vonnegut, I head out to wander through Tokyo. The contrasts, and confluences, always put ideas for writing into my head.
Over the years in Tokyo, I have written for many publications: The Japan Times for a dozen years, the once-great Tokyo Q, a learner-oriented weekly ST Shukan, Jazz Colo[u]rs (in Italian!), and about art and architecture for Artscape Japan. I currently run my own website Jazz in Japan (www.jazzinjapan.com). I also continue to publish academic articles and help run a conference on teaching literature (www.liberlit.com).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very good police procedural set in Tokyo in which the author excels in creating a vivid slice of Japanese life. Hiroshi Shimizu is called upon to investigate the murder of an American businessman who appears to have been pushed to his death beneath a speeding train. He's captured on security camera, very drunk, with a beautiful Japanese woman. Hiroshi and partner Takamatsu are drawn in to the seedy world of hostess clubs in the search for the woman and the motive for the man's gruesome fate. Author Michael Pronko is a professor of American Literature at Tokyo's Meiji Gakuin University and has lived in Japan for over twenty years. His writing is skilled and hugely knowledgeable on Japanese culture and customs. His descriptions really bring the book to life and make for fascinating reading. The characterisation is excellent; Hiroshi's failed relationship with Linda is perfectly portrayed and he comes across as both engaging and grounded. The plot is believable but, in my opinion, lacked a little in excitement. However, for anyone wanting a no-frills representation of life in modern Japan, Pronko is the go-to author.
This is a very interesting mystery. I learned things about Japan that I never knew. I liked Detective Hiroshi. He was a great character. This had many twists and turns. It was hard not to like the bad guy in this book also. I hope to read more books in this series. I received a copy of this book from Smith Publicity for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Professor and award-winning essayist, Michael Pronko, takes readers on a fast-paced ride through the streets of Japan in his debut mystery novel, The Last Train. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu, a little bit emotionally banged up from a recent relationship breakup, is contacted by his mentor and fellow coworker, detective Takamatsu, concerning a gruesome incident involving an American businessman, Steve Deveaux. The American was discovered dead on the train tracks of the Tamachi station in Tokyo. Not really wanting to get involved, Hiroshi originally believes it’s a simple case of suicide, but Takamatsu quickly points out several key points why it has to be murder, one of which is that he believes that foreigners just don’t commit suicide in Tokyo. The only sketchy information they have that points in the direction of murder is a security camera that was outside briefly showing a woman walking behind the man who would be dead in a matter of minutes. Armed with this knowledge, detectives Hiroshi and Takamatsu along with ex-sumo wrestler, Sakaguchi, embark on a twisting and turning investigative journey that takes them, and readers, into the underbelly of Tokyo in the Roppongi district, famous for its nightlife and Japanese hostess clubs. The author expertly educates readers on both the business and nighttime leisure culture of Japan throughout this story with such well-crafted proficiency that only an individual as uniquely qualified, who has spent time exploring, admiring, and living in Japan, can do. The most compelling aspect of this thriller is not the typical whodunit that lingers on the minds of readers throughout the story (in fact the murderer is revealed early on), but the motivation behind the decision to murder, and who will be the next target. What also makes this an unusual and compelling novel is that readers will find it hard not to feel a little sympathy for the murderess the detectives are desperately searching for, Michiko Suzuki, who is an alluring former hostess with a complex and harrowing past including being kidnapped. It becomes easily understandable why she seeks the ultimate revenge against a society that has turned her and her family’s world upside down as early as her childhood. But, sympathy or not, she must be stopped before more men die, whether they deserve it or not, but will the detectives find her before she strikes again, or will one of them become her latest victim? Quill says: The Last Train is a fast-paced thriller that skillfully exposes readers to the seedy urban side of Japan and leaves readers anxiously waiting for the next novel in the detective Hiroshi series.
Reviewed By Michel Violante for Reader Views (5/17) Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Last Train’ by Michael Pronko on Blogcritics. “The Last Train” by Michael Pronko begins late one evening with a beautiful, long haired brunette holding up and guiding an overweight drunken man at least twice her age, as they walk down the street toward the Tamachi train station in Tokyo. The next day, Hiroshi Shimizu, liaison between the Tokyo Police and their overseas counterpart, was summoned to report to the crime scene of an apparent homicide at the Tamachi station. Upon arrival, he is shown an unrecognizable body. Shimizu was able to determine that it was a foreigner due to the blonde hair, but it wasn’t until he did some digging that he found out the man was Steve Deveaux from Bentley Associates, an International consulting and investing firm in Nishi-Shinjuku. So begins Shimizu’s investigation, which leads the reader through a complex plot, filled with intrigue and awesome investigative tactics. Pronko is definitely a master of detective writing, and this novel reflects those skills at his best! Although I can’t say his plot was a suspenseful one for me as the reader learns “who did it” early on, his writing style kept me hooked to all the intriguing facts of the case, as did the investigation tactics used by the main character to unravel the case. The descriptions are spot on painting perfect pictures of the setting loud and clear within my mind. The characters and dialogues were real and genuine, pushing the plot forward while making the story credible and alive. The author’s extensive knowledge of Japan’s culture is evident throughout, as he bestows the reader with vividly descriptive experiences through his fine attention to detail and masterful writing skills. I can honestly say that I felt I was watching a movie in my mind while reading this book. Overall, I found this to be an extremely entertaining story, and I am just going to say it: “The Last Train” by Michael Pronko is a five-star detective read, the first in the series. It is unique, intriguing, and will hook the reader from beginning to end. I highly recommend it to all mystery lovers!