Shitamachi Scam

Detective Hiroshi Series Book 6

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
336 Pages
Reviewed on 01/05/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Carmen Tenorio for Readers' Favorite

In Michael Pronko's Shitamachi Scam, the accident of a scooter-riding snatcher and the deaths of an elderly woman and a reclusive student in Shitamachi, an area in the lower east of Tokyo, became suspicious after Detective Hiroshi Shimizu saw their connection with a crime known as sagi. This scam victimized pensioners by stealing or fraudulently acquiring their assets and life savings. An arson attack and more deaths shortly followed. The more the police investigate, the more they realize that a bigger, more brazenly evil mastermind is manipulating what appears initially as an organized sagi scam. Time is of the essence as Hiroshi, together with his boss and his reliable team of experts, put together the pieces of a complex puzzle of criminal activity before more homicides and accidents taint the ongoing celebration of the cherry blossom festival or hanami.

In Michael Pronko's Shitamachi Scam, offenses and fraud against the elderly are given a more dramatic twist by attaching these to a bigger scenario. Crime boldly branches out into multifarious forms that involve greed, corruption, and violence, all at the expense of the vulnerable and aging population. This makes for a riveting plotline with an engrossing, fast-paced style of writing and low-key humor. Character development is also a strong point. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu faces some life-changing events as he reaches a point where he is at a crossroads. Both the major and minor players are well-written. How they are interwoven and interact with the intriguing scenario of traditional and modern-day Japan makes this and all the previous novels of the series unique and captivating. Japan is known to have the lowest crime rates in the world, but this can sometimes create an illusion of public safety for some. Pronko's books are fiction but give plausibility, visibility, and realism to some of the atrocities and vile behavior in Japan that seem to be invisible at first. If you are a fan of thrilling crime and mystery novels, you will certainly enjoy how this series lifts the veil and reveals the criminal behavior behind some of the perceived politeness, formality, and mystique of Japanese culture.

Alma Boucher

Shitamachi Scam: Detective Hiroshi Series Book 6 by Michael Pronko is an excellent murder mystery set in Tokyo. An elderly woman was angry with the Sagi scam group that destroyed people’s lives, leaving them penniless in their final years, and when she heard about all the other crimes against women, she volunteered to help catch them. However, the elderly woman was killed during a setup. Detective Hiroshi teams up with Detective Ishii, who is running a women’s task force, to find the scammers. The scammers recruit people to collect information, documents, and deeds for them, and if anything goes wrong, the recruits become the targets. The scammers have the right people in the right places, and their scamming program runs on well-oiled wheels. After people start dying suspiciously, Detectives Hiroshi and Ishii begin putting the puzzle pieces together to find the scammers.

Shitamachi Scam was a fascinating and intricate read. Michael Pronko created a gripping blend of investigative work, murder, intrigue, con artistry, and action. I was always on the edge of my seat because of the suspenseful and action-packed storyline. I could not put it down since it was a page-turner, and I was too scared I'd miss something. The chapters flowed naturally into one another, making it an easy read. I was kept guessing until the end because of all the turns and twists, never knowing what would happen next. The characters were genuine and well-developed. The main characters complemented each other and functioned well as a team. This is a well-written story that had me interested all the way through.

K.C. Finn

Shitamachi Scam is a work of fiction in the suspense, mystery, and detective thriller subgenres, and is the sixth novel in the Detective Hiroshi book series. The work is best suited for the general adult reading audience. In this captivating and fast-paced tale penned by author Michael Pronko, Tokyo becomes the backdrop for a compelling tale of scams and deception. When two suspicious deaths occur, Detective Hiroshi delves into a world where older citizens are targeted by ruthless scammers. Teaming up with Detective Ishii, the duo uncovers a network preying on retirees, robbing them of their savings and properties. As Hiroshi navigates the intricate web of deception, the story unveils the complexities of traditional Tokyo life.

Author Michael Pronko has crafted an atmospheric and thrilling exploration of crime, culture, and chaos in the vibrant, edgy city of Tokyo. Pronko's vivid descriptions and attention to cultural nuances immerse the reader in the unique atmosphere of the city, offering a realistic portrayal that moves beyond the cinematic to immerse us in every sound, scent, and sensation. The partnership between Hiroshi and Ishii, combined with the support of other characters, offers a strong emotional foundation for readers to get invested in. I was very impressed by the slick dialogue and the devices used naturally in conversations to bring important plot points to our attention. The novel entertains with its well-arranged and cleverly-paced detective plot but also offers a glimpse into the intricacies of Tokyo's traditional and modern life, painting a bigger picture. Some interesting sociocultural messages stayed with me long after finishing this book. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Shitamachi Scam to fans of the existing series and the series in general to readers seeking impressive thriller mysteries with a lot to offer.