The Last Train

Fiction - Thriller - General
348 Pages
Reviewed on 05/10/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I live in Tokyo, and was a jazz writer for quite a few years, and still am. But when I started I was writing about jazz for the Japan Times, so I was always out at night in the nightlife parts of the city. I’d see these hostesses who work in all the clubs there, and they are stunningly attractive. But, I wondered what kind of life they led, staying up all night, working in the clubs in all these pretty wild areas of the city. I stared to wonder what was inside their appealing external appearance. What if one of them was a LOT smarter than they men she was working with, and decided to get more money than she could make as a hostess. The other inspiration is riding trains. They are a central part of Tokyo life. I wanted to explore how important they are to life—and to death. The Last Train came from observation and curiosity, like most novels, I suppose. My position living in Tokyo for 20 years, teaching American literature and culture at Meiji Gakuin University contributed a lot to this work, but in bits and pieces over the years. Teaching literature all day and going out many nights all rolled together into this story.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

Michael Pronko, a highly-accomplished author already, offers up a truly stellar performance in this debut mystery-series novel, The Last Train. Set in modern day Tokyo, a literary hologram for the enticingly complex and still largely inaccessible – to foreigners – Japan, about which Pronko is personally and convincingly conversant, this mystery is as much an introduction to the back alleyways, hostess clubs, industrial factories and local markets of an exotic, deadly city as it is a cat-and-mouse chase through those venues to find an elusive murderess, whose preferred method of disposal involves throwing her victims in front of Japan’s famously fast and timely trains. Which is precisely where the novel begins, with police detective Hiroshi Shimizu conscripted from his normal white-collar crime duties - due to his fluency in English - to aid in the murder investigation of an American investor.

Were it only for the intriguing plot line of Michael Pronko’s mystery thriller, The Last Train, a reader would be well satisfied. A master of his craft, however, Pronko’s deeper skill lies in his ability to reveal with concise Japanese subtlety the city beneath the city, the people beneath the people, and the cause beneath the cause for which an all too sympathetic villain is enacting her decidedly gruesome revenge. One wonders if he is rooting for the cop or for the villain – maybe both? This is a complex novel written sparsely, maintaining a high velocity of movement while inducing a meditative contemplation toward the motivation of each character involved. There is humor too, as subtle as the rest. Woven altogether, Michael Pronto has put in place the foundation for a truly engaging and popular mystery series.

Ruffina Oserio

The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a thriller with a spectacular setting, a gritty plot, and awesome characters. Get acquainted with Detective Hiroshi Shimizu who is swept away by the tide of Tokyo, investigating a homicide. An American businessman has been murdered, the death has been staged to look like suicide and it is in a city where just about anything could be possible and where the most innocent-looking face could lead one down a perilous path. Join the detective as he races across the city with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, experiencing the nightlife, the corporate business world, and the temples, each step as dangerous as the previous one, looking for the killer. Can they find the mysterious killer in time to stop another murder?

The first lines of every book, in fact, the first paragraph always tells me if I’ll love the book or not. The opening lines of this one are very descriptive of the characters, loaded with style and humor, allowing the reader a clear mental image of what the couple looks like. That detail was a promise that there would be a lot of humor and great passages in this book and the author delivered on that promise, brilliantly. “She was as tall as he was, but he was twice as wide and at least a decade, maybe two, older. She held his swaying body weight upright with her arm tight around his waist. Her tall, strong limbs prodded him forward along the late-night street—another Tokyo couple after a night out.”

Michael Pronko’s writing is captivating and readers will enjoy the Tokyo that is veiled from the eyes of tourists, the bubbling city with myriad secrets. The social commentaries add a lot of color to this gripping story. This is the first thriller I have read with a setting in Tokyo and it seems the author has a unique signature for plot and character. The characters are well-developed and they are memorable. The Last Train is nothing short of electrifying, a masterpiece that combines action with humor and suspense to give readers a unique entertainment.

Susan Sewell

Experience the city of Tokyo in the exhilarating thriller, The Last Train (A Tokyo Thriller) by Michael Pronko. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu's American girlfriend has left him and returned to America. Reeling from the breakup, Hiroshi is happy to stay in the station and solve white collar crimes. However, his colleague, Takamatsu believes that Hiroshi should be using his talents and getting out and mixing with people. Takamatsu takes advantage of an early morning murder and calls Hiroshi in on a special case. Hiroshi has the benefit of having attended an American university, understands the culture, and can speak English. Suicide by train is becoming a trend in Tokyo, but the one that occurred early that morning involves an American businessman. Takamatsu believes that Hiroshi's abilities are an asset and makes him an unwilling part of his team. The only clue they have is a woman caught on CCTV cameras escorting the latest victim into the train station, then exiting the station alone after the victim has met his demise. Another businessman is murdered, and the evidence again points to the unidentified woman. What is motivating the woman to commit murder? What does she have in common with American businessmen? Hiroshi, Takamatsu and their team race against the clock to get the answers before another life is taken. Will they succeed or will they fall prey and become the next casualties of the savvy killer?

Brilliantly set in the enigmatic modern city of Tokyo, The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a fast-paced and enthralling thriller, that will keep you spellbound to the final page. The plot is riveting and includes some fascinating twists that lead to a dramatic finale. Amidst all the action is a stimulating tour of Tokyo, seeing the city and the Japanese culture through the character's eyes. This crime thriller novel is a winner with its combination of a captivating setting, engaging characters, and a storyline infused with intrigue and action. It is a fascinating and enjoyable novel and comparable to, if not better than, a James Patterson thriller. I highly recommend it to fans of this genre; you won't be disappointed.