The Last Train

Author: Michael Pronko

Publisher: Raked Gravel Press

ISBN: 978-1-942410-13-3

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Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is comfortable investigating white collar crime. But when an American businessman turns up dead, he learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step—or a push—away. After years in America and lost in neat, clean spreadsheets, can he handle the crushing realities of the biggest city in the world?

Hiroshi teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi to scour Tokyo’s hostess clubs, sacred temples, skyscraper offices and industrial wastelands to find the elusive killer. She’s trying to escape from Japan to a new life through a high-stakes game of insider information. Hiroshi’s determined to cut through Japan’s ambiguities—and dangers—to find the murdering ex-hostess before she extracts her final revenge—which just might be him.

The Last Train is the gripping debut mystery in a new series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.


Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. He’s lost his girlfriend and still dreams of his time studying in America, but with a stable job, his own office and a half-empty apartment, he’s settled in.

When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentor Takamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step—or a push—away.

Takamatsu drags Hiroshi out to the hostess clubs and skyscraper offices of Tokyo in search of the killer. She’s trying to escape Japan for a new life by playing a high-stakes game of insider information. To find her, Hiroshi goes deeper and deeper into Tokyo’s intricate, ominous market for the most expensive real estate in the world.

When Takamatsu inexplicably disappears, Hiroshi teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi. They scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, corporate offices and industrial wastelands to find out where Takamatsu went, and why one woman would be driven to murder when she seems to have it all.

In a megalopolis of 40 million people, finding one woman is nearly impossible. If he can’t find her, more businessmen will die, she’ll flee the country and the male-dominated, cutthroat world of buying and selling property will never change.

After years in America and lost in neat, clean spreadsheets, Hiroshi confronts the stark realities of the biggest city in the world, where inside information can travel in a flash from the top investment firms to the bottom of the working world, where street-level punks and teenage hostesses sell their souls for a small cut of high-profit land deals.

Hiroshi’s determined to cut through Japan’s ambiguities—and dangers—to find the murdering ex-hostess before she extracts her final revenge—which just might be him.


From Chapter 1

She was sober and focused, nodding absently at his sputtering comments. A long shawl, as thick and black as her hair, fell around her broad shoulders. Her tight summer dress pulled at her trim figure with every stride. Her muscled legs were bare except for the wide
leather sashes of her sandals. She was a Tokyo woman, confident, directed and conscious of the city around her.

She pulled him toward the entrance of Tamachi Station away from the nearby warren of bars, eateries and all-night clubs filled with bar hoppers and boozers. She checked her watch, barely noticing the drizzle.

The trains would stop running soon.

From Chapter 3

“Could be a suicide,” Hiroshi mused, and then wondered if that would be any easier to do.

“A foreigner wouldn’t know the train schedules,” Takamatsu said.

“Maybe someone told him,” Hiroshi offered.

“No foreigner would figure out this was the best place to kill himself. The trains, the times, it takes a bit of planning.”

“Looks like suicide to me,” Hiroshi said.

Takamatsu shook his head. “Japanese are good at suicide, but not foreigners.”

From Chapter 6

Michiko tucked the receipts carefully into her black leather purse, zipped it tight and hoisted it onto her shoulder. Her footfalls echoed against the marble walls as she walked out to the shady boulevard. Outside, Michiko followed her reflection in the large windows of the elegant shops, before refocusing her eyes to study the interiors of each. Inside one shop, the glass shelves, well-placed mirrors, and sparse racks made the items on sale appear small works of art in themselves.

The rest of that morning’s errands could be finished in a few hours. The other things she had to do before she left would take time, effort and attention.

From Chapter 8

At the front gate, there were no taxis along the empty street in either direction, and the rain began to fall more heavily. Hiroshi waited a minute, hoping another taxi would drive by, but none did. He started walking away from the shrine and the smell of incense turned
to the smell of pure, clear rain.

As the downpour thudded onto the nylon of his umbrella and the wet soaked into his socks, he wondered whether the queasy, unsettled feeling he got from all these funerals accumulated somewhere inside to become a strength, or just another kind of weakness.

From Chapter 15

West Shinjuku gleamed like a vain architect’s dream. Functional, systematic, efficient—it was a business conception of spatial order unlike the organic chaos of old Tokyo. On the sunny side of the skyscrapers, the banks of windows ricocheted splinters of sunlight back and forth between buildings rising dizzying stories into the air. Opposite the sun, the massive buildings threw shadows over the grid of straight roads and neat walkways below. Global hotel chains and offices for conglomerates bullied aside the standing bars and cheap eateries that once dotted the area, though a few noodle shops and discount stores hung on at the feet of the skyscrapers.

Michiko walked past the office workers returning in reluctant waves to their sky-world cubicles after lunch.

From Chapter 17

Michiko checked her cell phone for the schedule of trains and then settled their bill, hoisting up Mark and—half-holding, half stumbling—guided him out the door. At the end of the alley, she leaned him against a wooden pillar as she dug into her bag for her umbrella. He was tall and hard to balance, but she maneuvered him to an underpass beneath the tracks. In the rainy night air, she’d begun to sweat with his added weight. “We need to hurry,” she said, and kept peg-legging him forward, step by step.

Tagged As:


  • Fiction
  • Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction)
  • Crime & Legal (Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction))



  • Detectives (Fiction)
  • Male Detectives (Crime & Legal (Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction)))
  • Crafty Criminals (Crime & Legal (Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction)))
  • Sympathetic Villains (Crime & Legal (Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction)))
  • Murderers (Crime & Legal (Mystery, Thriller, Suspense (Fiction)))


  • Urban (Fiction)

Publisher Notes

I want to share the realities of Tokyo, the biggest city in the world, look at the injustices of economics and the unfair position women are put into. My writing avoids Asian stereotypes to focus on realistically-presented, three-dimensional people. It’s not just “set in” Tokyo; it’s about Tokyo, in and of Tokyo. I particularly want people to remember my female main character and the injustice she encounters as a woman. She is, like most Japanese women, tough and resilient, but her treatment is an outrage. In Japan, things generally look great on the surface, but down below, not everything’s so perfect. Japan has huge gaps between men and women, rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless. Japan appears to be a low crime country, and it is, but the crimes that do occur often slip under the radar, and are worse for their relative scarcity.

Advance Praise

“This is a book written from knowledge rather than research and that he knows a lot more than he has any need to tell us. He brings the city gloriously to life.” The Bookbag

“Brilliantly set in the enigmatic modern city of Tokyo, a fast-paced and enthralling thriller, that will keep you spellbound to the final page.” Readers’ Favorite

“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.” Reader’s Favorite

“Readers will enjoy the Tokyo that is veiled from the eyes of tourists, the bubbling city with myriad secrets. The Last Train is nothing short of electrifying, a masterpiece that combines action with humor and suspense to give readers a unique entertainment.” Readers’ Favorite 

“Tokyo comes to vivid life in this taut thriller… filled with colorful characters that come and go as Shimizu and Takamatsu begin tightening the noose around the lovely neck of this mysterious -- and deadly -- killer.” Publishers Daily Reviews

“For anyone who loves crime and cop novels, or Japanophiles in general, this is a terrific thriller. And fans of author Barry Eisler’s early novels featuring John Rain, a Tokyo-based half-Japanese assassin, will find the same satisfactions here.” Blue Ink Review

Marketing Plan

I'd love to get reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other online bookstores. I have other marketing materials and would be happy to send them to you. Please contact me directly by email, or through my website:

But I also appreciate being on writers' blogs. I feel those blogs are more direct, more personal, and carry a lot of weight with readers.

Other Details

This novel comes out of my life in Tokyo, writing for newspapers, magazines and teaching American Literature. Writing non-fiction about Japan for nearly 20 years contributed a lot to the novel. But with fiction, I can take readers (and myself) into the interiors of Japanese culture, those hidden places where so much of life takes place. Much of Tokyo is "inside," interiors where most people would never go. I can go to those secret places in non-fiction, too, of course, but fiction can jump into the veiled sides of Tokyo life, and into the veiled conflicts.