And Now for Something a Little Different

I can’t read fast enough!

I have been busy lately with writing and research (including an overseas trip! More about that in an upcoming newsletter) and that’s left less time than usual for reading anything but nonfiction—and listening to audiobooks by Agatha Christie, but I figured I’d let up on the Agatha Christie reviews for a while.

So rather than skipping a week, I decided to share with you someone else’s review of a book I’d like to read. This one is on my TBR (To-Be-Read) list and I’m very eager to get to it.

My hope is that you’ll share the title of a book on your own TBR (and maybe even a review of it) in the comments below, because if there’s one thing we all need, it’s more books to read. *waves frantically from underneath a pile of books*

I don’t even remember where I heard about the Detective Hiroshi series by Michael Pronko, but they sounded interesting and a switch from the mysteries I usually read, which are set in the US and UK. This series is set in Japan. Pronko, who was born in Kansas, has lived in Japan for two decades and is a professor of American Literature. I’m guessing his experiences lend a unique perspective to his books.

I had a look on Amazon and the fifth book in the Detective Hiroshi series was released earlier this month.

So here’s one of the reviews I found of The Last Train, Book 1 in the Detective Hiroshi series. It appeared in Blue Ink Review in May, 2017.

The Last Train wastes no time grabbing the reader’s attention: It opens with a mysterious Japanese woman who leads her hapless American victim to a Tokyo subway station, then pushes him into the oncoming last train of the night.

After this breathtaking start, we meet police detective Hiroshi Shimizu, still recovering from a breakup with his American girlfriend. He’s assigned to financial crimes because he speaks fluent English, but a friend and mentor keeps pulling him into homicides. He’s placed on this murder because the victim was American and his English skills might be helpful.

From there, author Michael Pronko deftly weaves together a plot that flashes back and forth between the killer, who we learn is named Michiko Suzuki; her dark, tragic past, and Shimizu’s determination to track her down. Along the way, Pronko introduces a cast of fascinating characters, including Shimizu’s gruff mentor Takamatsu; sumo-wrestler-turned-cop Sakaguchi; an accountant and photographer who have been helping Suzuki with her killing spree, and the Tokyo yakuza (organized crime syndicate).As the plot unfoldsPronko takes readers through Tokyo’s sexually explicit “hostess bar” underground scene in the city’s lively Roppongi nightclub district, authentically rendered by the author.

For anyone who loves crime and cop novels, or Japanophiles in general, this is a terrific thriller. And fans of author Barry Eisler’s early novels featuring John Rain, a Tokyo-based half-Japanese assassin, will find the same satisfactions here. Pronko lives in Japan, and his knowledge of the culture and settings are obvious and impressive. The characters are believable and never condescending. Japan isn’t a mere exotic locale for the narrative; the story closely follows Japanese cultural values such as loyalty, honor and reciprocation.

In all, this is one you won’t want to miss. The Last Train will leave you scrambling for Pronko’s two other books featuring detective Shimizu: Thai Girl in Tokyo and Japan Hand.

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What do you think? I’m not a fan of sexually explicit scenes, so I wonder how the author handles the hostess club angle, but I’m interested enough in the plot of this book to keep an open mind.

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Twisty and Heart-Pounding

The Secrets We Share by Edwin Hill

This book takes place in two time periods—1995 and the present day. The reader first meets Natalie Cavanaugh as a 14-year-old girl in 1995. She has a younger sister, Glenn, and they live in a mostly-undeveloped development in a Boston suburb. There’s only one other house that’s been built so far; it belongs to the Sykes family and it’s right next door to Natalie’s house. At the beginning of the story, all we know is that Natalie has a secret that causes her stomach to hurt. We know the secret by the end of the first chapter, but I’m not going to spill it here.

Fast forward to the present day, and Natalie Cavanaugh is a detective who never strayed too far from the suburb where she grew up. Glenn lives nearby and is a wife, mom, baking blogger, social media influencer, and soon-to-be cookbook author (though not necessarily in that order).

When Glenn’s daughter, Mavis Abbott, finds a dead body (one who obviously did not die of natural causes) on her way to school, Natalie is assigned to the case before anyone realizes she’s related to Mavis. Mavis’s discovery of the body sets in motion a heart-stopping chain of events that reaches back into the past and keeps everyone in the present day in an icy-cold grip of fear.

There are so many things to love about The Secrets We Share. The first is Natalie Cavanaugh. She’s tough, but she’s got some serious issues of her own and they make her a vulnerable and sympathetic character. She’s got a lot riding on this case, and not just because her niece is at the center of it.

There’s also Glenn, the sister who seems to have everything…but as they say, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. She’s the polar opposite of Natalie and always has been, but the sisters share not only a fierce (if not always obvious) love, but also something that keeps them tied to the past.

There’s Angela White, Natalie’s boss and a strong, take-no-nonsense woman in her own right. She’s the one who trusts Natalie’s detective instincts but not necessarily Natalie’s personal judgment.

There’s Zane, Natalie’s partner and mentee, who keeps Natalie on an even keel when she would go off half-cocked. Zane is also a fan of Glenn’s baking blog, so he has things in common with both sisters.

Best of all, there are the twists. So. Many. Twists. Everyone in this book is harboring secrets, and the way the author unravels these secrets is the reason I was up late into the night to get to the last page. Edwin Hill has a way of keeping a tight rein on the reader’s interest and absolute NEED to find out whodunit.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a fast-paced thrill ride of a story, with tons of suspense, tons of intensity, and a jaw-dropping ending.