Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi) by Michael Pronko

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Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi) by Michael Pronko

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The fourth book in the series sees Detective Hiroshi and his creator, Professor Michael Pronko, blossom. A superbly-written and well crafted novel. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 340/9h40m Date: July 2021
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1942410256

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Zangyo: overtime work, often unpaid

It's the culture, isn't it? The hours for which you're paid are really just a statement of the minimum you'll be required to do: you'll work more hours to get the job done and done to the satisfaction of bullies like Shigeru Onizuka. When he was found dead in front of Senden Central's headquarters in Tokyo there was nothing in the way of regret or grief, even from his family, but there was a mild curiosity as to whether he'd jumped from the roof of the building or been assisted in his descent. Gossip revolves around the fact that he left the roof at the exact same spot that an employee, Mayu Yamase, had committed suicide some three years earlier. She'd accused Onizuka of bullying her and forcing her to work an unreasonable amount of overtime.

Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is there to find out what happened and has to delve into the murky business dealings of Tokyo's top media company with its questionable record-keeping, lavish entertaining and culture of bullying employees - and in this, it was not unusual. A superficial view of the company suggests that it's well-run and efficient but it's like a cult. Onizuka's death might have been suicide (unlikely as this seems, once you know about the man), a dreadful accident (he had been imbibing heavily) or even a decision to eliminate him made by the company which you feel is probably not as far-fetched as it should sound. Hiroshi's delving deep into Japanese business methods - an area which he's consciously avoided all his working life and for good reason.

Regular readers of the series will recognise many of the police personnel. There's Takamatsu, his senpai and erstwhile mentor, detectives Osaki and Sugamo and his assistant, Akiko. The characterization is excellent: I was particularly impressed by the way that Hiroshi has matured over the series and the way that the dynamics of the police group has adjusted to accommodate the changes. You'll get more out of all the books if you read them as a series, starting with The Last Train but all the books in the series read well as standalones. There's a very gentle continuing storyline throughout the series but, essentially, these books are about aspects of Japanese life rather than about the lives of individual police officers. This time it's the culture of obligatory overtime (Hiroshi investigates the case - whilst working overtime) which dominates the story with a sideline about sadomasochistic sexual practices which is handled sensitively.

The plot is very good: the clues were all there but I missed them. It's a book I'm going to reread pretty quickly just for the pleasures of seeing where I missed the clues and of enjoying the intelligent writing and the glorious images of life in Tokyo. As a reviewer, the series of books that I follow is necessarily limited but Detective Hiroshi is a particular favourite and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

We have a list of the Hiroshi series in chronological order. If you'd like to read more about life in Tokyo we can recommend Pronko's books on life in Tokyo: Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life and Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo.

Booklists.jpg Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi) by Michael Pronko is in the Top Ten Self-Published Books 2020.

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