Tokyo Zangyo, the Year’s Best Mystery Novel

The Bottom Line: Pronko’s best Hiroshi series book yet. Hiroshi is now as synonymous with Tokyo crime fiction as Harry Bosch is to LA noir. Voted the Best Mystery of 2021.

Detective Hiroshi’s latest case revolves around the likely suicide of a Japanese media executive who appears to have jumped from the roof of a 20-story building. He died in the exact same spot as his former employee, a woman whom he had pushed the brink and harassed until she filed suit and eventually jumped to her death. In a country where suicide is a leading cause of death, and business is booming for rooftop fencing companies in particular, there’s little reason to suspect foul play.

But Detective Hiroshi and his mentor, Detective Takamatsu, aren’t so sure. Is it possible the executive was pushed?

There were no wire cutters found where the rooftop fence had been cut. In addition, the exec had been preparing to take a promotion in the London office. Suspecting there’s far more to the story, Hiroshi requests full access to the company’s accounting department, even records stored in an offsite facility. But Hiroshi and his boss may have another obstacle impeding their search for truth and justice: their own Chief of Police, who seems willing to do anything to get the case wrapped up in a hurry.

The term Zangyō refers to the brutal overtime expected in Japanese corporate culture, and Pronko’s latest Detective Hiroshi novel is a fascinating and stark examination of its consequences. Newcomers to Pronko’s Tokyo can easily enter the Hiroshi series here, but longtime readers will be rewarded with the detective’s satisfying character arc. Sure, Hiroshi is still squeamish when it comes to dead bodies, and is still something of a forensic accounting specialist. But he’s also more confident and aggressive than in previous books, giving him the edge he needs to deal with criminals and bureaucrats while still maintaining enough perspective to offer awe-inspiring insights into Japanese culture.

With Tokyo Zangyo, Pronko effectively overtakes the excellent John Rain series as the definitive voice of Japanese crime fiction.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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