By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: July 2021
Reviewed By: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: October 12, 2021
In the highly anticipated fourth novel of the outstanding Detective Hiroshi mystery series, Tokyo Zangyo, author Michael Pronko once again captivates readers with his expert storytelling ability.
Zangyo, a Japanese word for the concept of mandatory, unpaid, overtime work, is the central theme in author Pronko’s gripping new thriller. While many employees throughout the world may have experienced the occasional necessity of working well past quitting time, the Japanese work culture is beyond brutal and working insane amounts of extra hours is often a necessary and mandatory evil. Unfortunately, this type of work ethic, while possibly beneficial to the business, and overall economy of the country, only leads to individual burnout and dire health consequences.
Our story begins with the same level of intense energy as in the previous novels that readers have come to expect - an executive at one of Japan’s top media companies takes a plunge from high atop their building’s headquarters, to his death. Detective Hiroshi is summoned to the scene and quickly gathers and analyzes critical information that leads him to wonder if the executive committed suicide, or was he somehow forced off the side of the building by someone else. The detective attempts in earnest numerous times, and from different angles, to gather information from the other executives and department heads to arrive at the correct answer, but he is continually being thwarted by them, as if they’re covering something up much deeper than what lies on the surface. What Hiroshi does manage to discover, after spending time digging in various odd and generally unsavory areas, is that one of the dead executive's employees was caught in a tornado of zangyo herself, and committed suicide (exactly three years prior). Even more surprising is that she fell from the exact same place where he fell to his death. But is this fact a mere coincidence, or did the executive kill himself out of guilt, or perhaps he was forced into jumping? Together with his work comrades, Detective Hiroshi, (often himself a victim of the intensely stressful, and overworked culture) aims to find the real answers, no matter what it takes.
Like the author’s previous novels, Tokyo Zangyo is not just your average murder mystery thriller. It’s a much more complex mix of fiction, and an exploration of what the author believes is a critical issue with Japan's often ruthless corporate philosophy. When you pick up this novel you aren’t merely reading for entertainment, you receive a bit of a bonus education (that’s compelling throughout), and exposure to a culture that is mostly unfamiliar to the American reader. Each of the characters in this story, both new and recurring, continue to be well-formed, and even though this is the fourth novel in the series, they haven’t become stale and predictable. In fact, as this story comes to a satisfying conclusion led by the author’s talented writing ability, it leaves readers wanting to read more, and ultimately learn more.
Quill says: Both riveting and enlightening, Michael Pronko continues to impress readers with his fourth novel in the Detective Hiroshi series, Tokyo Zangyo.
For more information on Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi Series Book 4), please visit the author's website at: www.michaelpronko.com