From the beginning of The Moving Blade, Michael Pronko exposes readers to theft, murder and international diplomacy. The unease they provoke never diminishes in this riveting mystery set in Tokyo.
Hiroshi Shimizu officially works in the Tokyo homicide department but spends most of his time investigating white-collar crime from his cramped office. Because he’s bilingual, having studied in Boston, he’s asked to probe the murder of U.S. diplomat Bernard Mattson, whose stolen documents, some of which were to be presented at an upcoming global symposium on Asian security, potentially have worldwide implications.
The police have few leads other than the sword cuts on the victim’s body. (The title refers to the rapid-fire movement of sophisticated swordsmanship through use of various swords capable of inflicting different types of damage.)
When Jamie Mattson, who hasn’t seen her father in years, returns to Japan for his funeral, she’s immediately approached by people interested in publishing her father’s work once it’s recovered. Jamie, like readers, isn’t sure who is trustworthy among this group, and tension builds as Hiroshi and Jamie work together—and independently—to find Mattson’s murderer and the missing papers.
The author includes several clever plot diversions: for example, Mattson’s collection and research on Japanese erotica was also stolen, raising questions about what the thieves were truly seeking. Another diversion is a possible love interest. However, the main focus is on finding the documents before the symposium begins.
The large number of characters can occasionally be hard to track, but that’s a quibble. This is a true page turner, with main characters that come alive with their intelligence, curiosity and imperfections. Pronko combines suspense with occasional light-hearted moments as he takes readers to back-alley ramen shops, crowded train stations and busy Tokyo streets. The roller-coaster pace delivers slow acceleration to a critical point before plunging forward and into absorbing twists and turns.
With its well-crafted plot involving credible, menacing threats, The Moving Blade is sure to captivate mystery fans.
Also available as an ebook.