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Michael Pronko
Tokyo Zangyo
After a top-tier manager in Japan’s premier media company ends up dead in front of company headquarters, Detective Hiroshi enters the high-pressure, hard-driving world of Tokyo’s large corporations. Hiroshi quickly finds out the manager fell from the roof at the exact same spot as an employee suicide three years before. With little more to go on, Hiroshi can’t tell if the manager’s death was a guilt-ridden suicide, a careless accident, or a grisly personnel decision. The only certainty is that Japanese workplaces rely on “zangyo,” unpaid overtime that drives employees to quit—or to kill. Teaming up with his mentor Takamatsu, Hiroshi scours the off-record spending, lavish entertaining and unspoken agreements that keep Japan, Inc. running with brutal efficiency. Working overtime himself, Hiroshi probes the dark heart of Japanese business, a place he’s tried to avoid all his life.
Did Shigeru Onizuka, an executive in Senden Infinity, jump from the roof of his Tokyo office building, or was he pushed? That’s the puzzle at the heart of Pronko’s superior fourth novel featuring police detective Hiroshi Shimizu (after 2020’s Tokyo Traffic). Senden’s status as one of Japan’s flagship corporations ratchets up the pressure for answers from Hiroshi’s boss, who fears the company’s bottom line would be harmed by a lengthy inquiry. Hiroshi pursues an obvious motive for homicide—revenge—after he learns that Onizuka died in the same spot as Mayu Yamase, whose unquestioned suicide three years earlier led to the installation of safety fencing on top of Senden’s building. The reason for Mayu’s death seemed straightforward—her boss, Onizuka, had harassed and overworked her until the pressure was too overwhelming to endure. Might a surviving family member have murdered Onizuka? Pronko captures both the rhythms of routine police work and the demanding working conditions in a company where zangyo (overtime work) is expected, if not always compensated. Fans of quality police procedurals will welcome more of Hiroshi. (Self-published)