Azabu Getaway, The Year’s Best Crime Thriller by Michael Pronko

The Bottom Line: Detective Hiroshi has never been more entertaining in this electrifying crime thriller featuring some truly ingenious financial crimes. 

When American wealth manager Patrick Walsh returns to his Tokyo apartment and keys in his passcode, he’s surprised to find that it still works. For those unfamiliar with Tokyo, Azabu is known as one of Tokyo’s most expensive residential districts. When Walsh’s ex-wife Miyuki arrives home from work later that evening, she’ll find their two young daughters and cats missing, her babysitter tied up, and her mother dead.

Meanwhile, across town, a murder victim is found at Nine Dragons Wealth Management, the office where Walsh once worked. Enter Detective Hiroshi Shimizu, who is called to both crime scenes. 

One reason author Michael Pronko’s Detective Hiroshi series is so enjoyable is because his hero’s eccentricities seem to grow more pronounced – and entertaining – with each successive book. As Hiroshi’s professional clout has grown, the fifth installment finds that he has also grown increasingly self-aware of his own quirks and personal preferences. Hiroshi actually hates crime scenes, greatly preferring his work as a forensic accountant (“numbers didn’t bleed”). As such, Hiroshi averts his eyes at both scenes, preferring to get a limited amount of gruesome detail secondhand. And as the only team member who both understands English or Excel, he conducts interviews as a precursor to what he does so well – solving crimes by following the money. 

The book’s title refers to Azabu, one of Tokyo’s most expensive residential districts. Even as Hiroshi rolls his eyes at the prospect of spending his time on “cat abduction,” Pronko’s plot is filled with truly ingenious corporate financial schemes.

Pronko, an American expat and professor at Meiji Gakuin University, delivers unprecedented insight into the unique challenges faced by foreigners in Japan to great effect. It’s no surprise that Miyuki’s father was against her marrying an American, but Pronko also drops plenty of cultural bombshells, such as in the matter of custody disputes in interracial marriages (“the husband, especially if he’s a foreigner, is always wrong”). Perhaps most intriguing are the activities and motivations of a so-called “reunion group” for foreigners in custody battles. 

Along the way, Pronko continues to progress Hiroshi’s professional and personal life in ways that longtime fans will adore. 

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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