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.