By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: June 2020
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: July 30, 2020
They’re back again! Author Michael Pronko and his protagonist, forensic accountant-detective Hiroshi Shimizu, returns with his comrades in yet another pulse-pounding, crime-solving thrill ride through the streets of Tokyo.
The third novel of the Detective Hiroshi series, Tokyo Traffic, opens inside a warehouse converted into an adult film studio, where a young, strung-out and terrified young woman, Sukanya, is hiding amongst a mess of toppled-over equipment. She manages to control her shivering body long enough to go near the dead bodies lying on the floor, to take out cash from their wallets, and run off with an iPad and laptop. As if being shot with drugs and confronted with death isn’t horrible enough for anyone to live through, Sukanya is on the run in a completely foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know where to go, and the few people she does know are nowhere to be found. A few things are certain, Sukanya needs to get her passport to safely get out of the country, and someone wants her, and the electronic equipment she escaped with, and they’ll do everything in their power to get it.
Meanwhile detective Hiroshi is living with his girlfriend, Ayana, after rekindling their long-lost relationship (and mutual love of the Japanese martial art, Kendo) from when they were young. He finds himself in a constant turmoil between being pulled into odd, and long hours at work, and spending quality time with Ayana. In fact, a recent call from his boss Sakaguchi, requesting his immediate presence at a crime scene filled with dead bodies, interrupts the ending of their Kendo practice. But duty calls and detective Shimizu is compelled to answer, even if it could potentially ruin relationships...or his life. Once the crime scene was worked over, three bodies were identified as the film studio director, an unidentified teenage female, and the head bureaucrat at the Ministry of Finance. Upon further investigation, the detectives uncover more clues in the warehouse murders that lead them down a dark, complicated path involving a mix of human trafficking and the use of cryptocurrency as a means of funding pornographic projects. They also receive critical information that reveals the possibility of another girl who may have been a witness to the murders, and they must do their best to find her in the vast streets of Tokyo, before the killers do.
Tokyo Traffic, like its two award-winning predecessors, is a solidly written novel that extends further past the simple “whodunit” mystery genre, and delves deep into a complex and thrilling exploration of strong, multi-layered characters and an equally compelling, gritty setting. The author's many years of experience in writing is evident; and combined with his personal experience and knowledge of the Japanese culture, the story propels readers right into a fast-paced thriller from the shocking opening scenes, moving into a vividly described middle that keeps readers at the edge of their seats, and swiftly slides right into a seriously electrifying finale. Pronko’s novel may be fiction, but the novel’s themes, specifically that of human trafficking, are real-life. By sensitively writing about these heavy subjects, he brings them into the forefront of readers’ minds, making this not only entertainment, but also food for thought.
Quill says: Author Michael Pronko adroitly takes readers on another outstanding Detective Hiroshi thrill ride into the streets of Tokyo, this time presenting a murderous case involving human trafficking that you don’t want to miss.
For more information on Tokyo Traffic (Detective Hiroshi series, Book 3), please visit the author's website at: www.michaelpronko.com