Bluebonnets and Book Deals!

I wanted to check in with you to let you know what’s been happening. In a word: Lots! A lot of writing and planning the rest of the Shig Sato series. In a few weeks, I’ll have some chapters for you to peruse – and I love feedback! So don’t be shy about telling me what you think.

I’ve lived in Austin, Texas, for a little more than two years now and it’s been great. Right now is Texas Bluebonnet time. The wildflowers here are amazing, and one thing many people do is take their picture with bluebonnets.

Since I am definitely camera-averse, I’ll skip that part, but here’s a little something of what I mean. (photo courtesy Dallas Morning News)

bluebonnetDMN

Another thing that came up recently is the U.S. News & World Report Top Cities. Austin is No. 1 for the second year in a row. Here’s the link. I’ve lived in many cities thanks to my journalism career, including New York, Chicago, and Tokyo, and I can tell you Austin has it all on a scale that makes everything accessible and affordable. There’s a vibrant dining scene here, and the music is second to none. Come for a visit when you can!

Along with ‘mapping out’ the remaining Shig Sato mysteries, I have been posting book reviews on my blog. One review was for the Alex Vane media thriller The Anonymous Source by my friend A.C. Fuller. It’s a read I’d highly recommend. In fact, this Sunday, April 15, he’s having a sale on two of Alex Vane media thrillers – US and UK only. The Anonymous Source finds Alex in a media conspiracy that goes back to 9/11, and in The Inverted Pyramid, he attempts to untangle a web surrounding a dead hacker and an attempt to rig the 2004 election.

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Remember: Today! Sunday, April 15, one day only – each book will be 99 cents – just click!

In the meantime, be well and good reading.

All the best from me and Shig,

Joe

 

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

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Book Review Wednesday – The Girlfriend Experience

The book-a-week challenge continues with  The Girlfriend Experience (Matt Bugatti Book 1) by Charles O’Donnell.

ODonnel1Inside the mind of Dr. Matteo Bugatti lives the single-minded desire to break the internet’s most secure code. Which is fine for the naive computer wizard, until the NSA and the Chinese take an interest in his doings. The closer he gets to solving the riddle, the higher the stakes become. Not that he is aware of what’s going on around him until it’s too late, and breaking the code becomes a matter of life and death. For the genius Matt Bugatti, what he doesn’t know can kill him.

Charles O’Donnell has crafted a techno-thriller with enough elements to satisfy the demands of any fan of the genre: nefarious personalities, spy vs. spy, double dealings, temptation, betrayal, trust, and a plot that moves along at a pretty good clip despite a heavy load of deep computer technology that O’Donnell handles masterfully.

The last time I read what’s now called a techno-thriller was The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy’s debut novel. I liked it because I was in the navy and I’m fascinated by surface warfare and submarine technology. Fast-forward 30 years to The Girlfriend Experience. I have no love nor interest for code, software, hardware, or computer science in general, and I have to admit the details O’Donnell includes falls into the ‘skip over’ category of my reading, but that’s just me.

O’Donnell did not sacrifice technology for story, and for that I’m thankful. I am interested in what’s next for Matt Bugatti in Book 2, Moment of Conception. I’m looking forward to finding out.

The Girlfriend Experience, by Charles O’Donnell.

4 stars out of 5.

Available as ebook and paperback.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

Book Review Wednesday – Out

The book-a-week challenge continues with Out, by Natsuo Kirino.

OUTbookcoverforreviewA wife and mother who works the overnight shift making box lunches finally had enough of a husband who strays, gambles, loses their savings, humiliates her, and displays all the indifference of a stranger. She strangles him, then convinces her co-worker friends to help her dispose of the body and cover up her crimes.

This is the heart of the mystery novel Out, by Natsuo Kirino, but to say that’s what the story is about is wrong. Out is a glimpse into the underbelly of a microcosm of darkest modern Japan. It’s notable for what is absent. Its characters are dark, intense, mystifying, mortifying, desperate, caught in the gears of the terrible machine of survival, day to day, night to night, paycheck to paycheck. Indifferent husbands, recalcitrant children, indifferent bosses, creepy co-workers, and sinister criminals populate the pages. Kirino’s style is direct and unceasing. Just as the reader grasps the implication of one action, another comes, then another, then another.

What’s not to like?

I discovered this morbid gem of a thriller several years ago and finished reading it for a second time the past weekend. Kirino, who came to writing in her 30s and published in her 40s to wide acclaim, wastes no time in describing the miserable existence of a team of food factory workers mindful of quotas and the best position on the assembly line to endure a long, tiring shift. Their day continues upon their return to their homes in the morning to face the demands, slights, and misery of their lives. The incessant need for money is one of the book’s central themes. Bone weariness another. Unwanted attention by a strange man and the humiliation of not being young and pretty are others. Most know how it is to be treated as automatons, cash dispensers, or objects of scorn.

All of this, described in exquisite detail, drives the central theme of the story: one woman had enough. It’s a fatal decision, and her coworkers, the only people she could remotely call her friends, step up, albeit timidly or reservedly. That she convinced her friends to help her, using comradery and bribery, is only the setup to the crime’s gruesome aftermath. The tension quickens as reality sets in. What ensues is dark and occasionally funny, but is also an examination not only of an individual, but a group, and a national, consciousness.

A novelist and a short-story writer, Kirino has won many awards. Out is the winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, Best Japanese Crime Fiction of the Year, nominated for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America. Some of her other works have won the prestigious Tanizaki Prize and the Yomiuri Prize.

But for me as a reader, the one prize that matters above all others, is believing a book is worth reading twice, three times, four times. Few have reached that apex. Out surely has.

Out, by Natsuo Kirino, translated by Stephen Snyder.

5 stars out of 5.

Available in all formats everywhere.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

Book Review Wednesday – The Anonymous Source

The read-a-book-a-week challenge continues with A.C. Fuller’s The Anonymous Source, An Alex Vane Media Thriller.

AnonymousSourceA wealthy financier’s death is linked to tragedy surrounding Sept 11, 2001. An unimpressive, nondescript student is charged with the murder of an NYU professor, at one time a student of the financier. A mega-merger threatens to alter the media landscape, a merger fought tooth and nail by an anti-corporate activist with the vision to know that consolidating news organizations is bad for consumers, and losing net neutrality will doom free speech. That she manages to convince the financier to donate an improbably large donation to her watchdog group just weeks before his death seems improbable but this improbable decision is the hinge upon which the story swings to and fro.

A.C. Fuller’s The Anonymous Sources is a thriller that delivers: suspense, excitement, surprise, and an ongoing guessing-game of who is this Anonymous Source pivotal to the story. Alex Vane, the reporter with a nose for news and enough sense to challenge his editors when his editors stonewall, makes friends with Camila Gary, the ex-girlfriend of the murdered professor. The differences in their personalities and outlook, and the demons that fester within them make them an odd pair, but they work well together.

Fuller lays out clues like Hanzel and Gretel’s pebbles and breadcrumbs. Beneath the descriptive passages concerning newsgathering, source verification, the court system, traveling and dining in New York, an international assassin, travel to Hawaii, corrupt cops, New York sports, the tension and ambiguity between Alex and Camila, and the often tedious work of sorting facts and writing news, Fuller manages to keep his whodunit on track. His story moves back and forth in time, revealing small events that add to the greater whole, and the reader can follow the path to where the clues lead. There are just enough surprises to make the book interesting, and the characters relatable enough that I want to read more Alex Vane thrillers.

A.C. Fuller was a journalist and journalism professor before turning to writing thrillers full time. He knows his material. A wire service motto of long ago was ‘get it first, but get it right.’ As someone who still works in the newspaper business, I appreciate that he gets it right.

4 stars out of 5.

Available in all formats everywhere.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

Book Review Wednesday – Faceless Killers – A Mystery (Kurt Wallander Mystery Book 1)

The read-a-book-a-week challenge continues with Faceless Killers.

FacelessKillersCoverHenning Mankell’s Faceless Killers brings to life Kurt Wallander, a detective in a small town in the south of Sweden who, on a frozen January morning, comes face to face with the grisly murder of an elderly farm couple.

Beset with his own life in near-shambles, Wallander begins the painstaking process of finding the killers with little more to go on than coincidence and one word, “foreign.”
Mankell weaves a tale filled with examining Sweden’s immigration crisis, elder care, opera, failed marriages, father-daughter estrangements, media antics, all weaved into a tightly written page-turner of a police procedural.

Mankell’s style is simple and head-on. It’s no wonder his Wallander books enjoy such acclaim. Television viewers may recall the PBS Mysteries series picking up the BBC production of the Wallander mysteries, starring Kenneth Branagh. The Swedish production of the series (which I prefer) is available on Netflix.

I told a friend once I had read the books – I lied. I had watched the programs and had every intention of eventually reading the books. Now I have read Book 1. I’m glad I did. I’m hooked. Can’t wait to get started on the next one.

Faceless Killers – A Mystery (Kurt Wallander Mystery Book 1) –  by Henning Mankell

5 stars out of 5.

Available in all formats everywhere.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

NewAllBooks20184FB

Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting new character in Shig Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

Book Review Wednesday – The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance

The read-a-book-a-week challenge continues with Glen Barrera’s Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance.

assassincoverThere are some books that are nightstand dust collectors. Some are the type where you read a few pages at a time before going to bed. Or maybe a chapter, a book read on and off over the course of a few months, or a year, or longer.

The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance is not one of those books. So don’t even try. Be prepared to go all in, stay up all night, keep reading ’til you can’t, then stay up another hour. It’s that good.

Barrera weaves a tale that had many characters, many story lines, lots of locales, people, and most of all, motives. Why? Hidden treasure. Ill-gotten gains. Safe deposit boxes and secret codes. In Arabic. Shady dealings in the 1991 Gulf War result in some bad guys not being able to get their hand on a lot of loot. The good guys are a team of ex-Recon who, one by one, are visited by the bad guys’ goon squad, to get the loot back. But no one knows there’s an Assassin Who Coudn’t Dance out for his own measure of revenge.

Good guy? Bad guy? It’s really that simple, and really that captivating. It is a face-paced yarn that’s definitely a satisfying page-tuner. It has it all: mystery, suspense, intrigue, and a satisfying ending.

Don’t miss out on this fun read.

 

The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance, by Glen Barrera

4 stars out of 5.

Available in ebook and paperback — just click.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

NewAllBooks20184FB

Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have is an interesting new character in Shig Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

Get to know Shig Sato – Where Shig Lives

Shig lives in Hyakunincho, Shinjuku, a Tokyo neighborhood very much a part of its urban landscape. Central Tokyo is considered to be inside the Yamanote Commuter Line ‘circle.’ Hyakunincho is one of the many Yamanote neighborhoods that encircle the city.  A ride on the Yamanote line can take you to Tokyo’s festive Ueno Park for cherry-blossom viewing, the newest electronics at Akihabara, the historic Tokyo Station, and the much-photographed Shibuya crossing.  (The train route below with the black and white squares is the Yamanote Line. As you can see, it is a must-ride for any visitor.)SaveThisMap

Why did I place Shig in this neighborhood. It’s where I lived for a time when I was in Tokyo in the late 1980s, in a foreign house not unlike the Yamanote Villa.

First of all: Tokyo is not a city, according to its government system. It is a prefecture all its own, made up of 23 wards, one of which is Shinjuku. Inside Shinjuku is are the districts of Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Kagurazka, Ichigawa, Yotsuya, and Okubo. Often, train stations take the name of their district. There is an Okubo station, part of the JR East (Japan Railway) line. That station and its predecessors date back to the 1890s. Shin-Okubo (‘New’-Okubo) is a stop on the Yamanote line. It is a station unto itself — it is one of two on the Yamanote line that has no direct service to any other train line.

What follows is a series of screen shots from Google Maps that show some areas of Hyakunincho. It’s Shig’s neighborhood. Its streets are his streets.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 2.45.25 AM
The building with the blue roof is Shin-Okubo Station on Okubo-dori (Okubo Street). The train tracks to its immediate right is the Yamanote commuter line. The street that leads to Shig’s home is across Okubo-dori, next to the building with the green roof.

 

A view of Shin-Okubo Station
A view of Shin-Okubo Station.
A view of the Yamanote trains and the underpass
A view facing east: Okubo-dori, the Yamanote commuters trains, and the underpass.
The lane that leads to Shig's home
The lane that leads to Shig’s house. Kei’s yakitori-ya would be at the end of the first block on the left.
View walking north, Globe Theatre on right
A view of the lane as it continues north. The Globe Theater is hidden behind the trees on the right.
Closup of Shig's neighborhood
A close-up of Shig’s neighborhood. His house would be situated at the very bottom left, the grey roof across from the red roof. At top right is a neighbor recreational baseball diamond, which was there when I lived in Hyakunincho.

One of my aims in writing the Shig series is to provide directions as accurately as possible. My hope is a person in Tokyo could find ‘Shig’s House’ by the descriptions in my novels. If not, the blame is entirely mine. Have any questions about Tokyo and it’s many wards? Leave a question in the comments and I’ll answer them.

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

Like Knives Behind My Eyes

Suicide – or murder? Will scandal taint the Bank of Japan? Here’s Chapter one of Tokyo Summer – A Shig Sato Novella.

 

Chapter 1

 

“It feels like knives behind my eyes.”ssnovella1

Setsuko Usami said it so often her husband seemed deaf to it. She knew that their years together taught her that Taro would not understand it, not even try. Taro Usami’s indifference had become almost as painful as the migraines themselves.

At one time early in their marriage she was surprised and glad Taro asked about her headaches, if anything was wrong, but that stopped. Her migraines always returned and he was tired of feeling useless, and would say, “What could he do?”

He never had headaches. He didn’t know what to do.

Eventually Setsuko gave up. What could he do? He was a rising star at the Bank of Japan and they had a tiny four-room flat in Chuo and she was the mother of two teenagers. His life was outside the home. Her life had not changed since her 20s. She cooked and cleaned and shopped and succumbed to the incessant, unbearable beat of the never-ending demands of life in Tokyo.

Setsuko remembered when Taro would ask about her day, act like he cared. That was when they were young and the world held so much promise for smart young couples staking their claim to making a good life for themselves in the city. She sometimes thought that being young was the cause of that. Now they were in their 40s and she was weary and laid in bed for hours every day even when she didn’t have her migraines.

She held onto hopes, though. Like it being the year 1988, and thinking that perhaps this would be the year her luck would change. She had heard 88 was a lucky number.

But it was the end of May and she laid on her futon and suffered through her migraines and wondered if her luck would ever change, or if this really was her life. She wondered if she would ever get fed up and actually say something like “that’s the last straw.” She wondered what would it be, that straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

She wondered about it, idly at times, then forgot about it as a new day presented new problems. But the thought always returned. What would happen? What would it take?

 

The last straw came at the end of June. Plans for the children’s summer holiday had to be decided. Taro’s indifference infuriated her. He said he was busy at work. He said a promotion was in the works. He said he couldn’t get away because the timing was all wrong.

She kept asking. A trip with her sister and their children just didn’t happen on a whim. She needed to know. She needed to plan. Her daughter’s sullen peevishness was driving her mad – getting the girl to agree to anything was a battle in itself, now that she was 15 and in full rebellion mode. Her son was pulling away from her, as boys do when they become teenagers. He was 13 and had sprouted up and seemingly overnight his voice had dropped an octave. His charming little boy self was disappearing. Getting them both to agree to go with her sister and their children to Okinawa had been like moving heaven and earth. And in another year she knew it would be impossible to get anyone to agree on anything.

Setsuko Usami clung to the hope her plans had not gone to pieces. Then one evening Taro came home late and she was ready to have it out once and for all. But before she could get started he said, “I have to go to Singapore for the Pacific Rim finance ministers meeting.” He said it as if he was taking the car to a mechanic.

“What! When?” She prayed it wouldn’t interfere with their holiday. “When do you have to go?”

“You know when,” he said as he removed his clothes and left them where they lay and reached for the pajama bottoms she had laid out for him. He escaped to the bathroom.

“Taro! My plans! Why can’t–”

“It can’t be helped!”

Setsuko stared at the bathroom door until he stepped out. She collapsed onto her futon and watched Taro lay down with his back to her. A thunderbolt of nausea erupted from deep inside her gut and she ran to the bathroom.

Taro called out, “What is it now?”

“You know what it is!”

Taro turned off the light. A pink half-darkness beyond their window spilled into the room where they slept, the dim split in two by a rare moonbeam. Sleep came easily.

 

+

 

Aroused from his slumber, Taro Usami realized he sensed Setsuko’s absence. He sat up and saw her unmussed futon. He listened for any household sounds. He heard nothing. Then he realized a need to relieve himself.

Stepping to the bathroom, half asleep, he wondered why the door wouldn’t open fully.

And why the light was on.

Once he managed to get his head in for a peek, he saw why. Setsuko lay on the floor, her body twisted, eyes open, mouth sagging, tongue limp, strands of hair matted on her forehead and cheek. An empty prescription medicine vial lay inches from her fingertips.

Later, his children would say he shouted “Setsuko” over and over.

Taro Usami would say he didn’t remember.

To pre-order a copy of  Tokyo Summer, click here. To sign up for for great deals and advance notice of more great Shig Sato stuff, just click here. Be assured your information is safe – I hate spam and never share information.

 

Are the Kobayashi twins in trouble again?

ss3new5smIf you’ve ever read a Shig Sato Mystery, you know the hapless Kobayashi twins can’t buy a break.

Will their luck change in Traitors & Lies? This is how it begins for them:

Sweat and grime was all Ishi and Joji Kobayashi had to show for their long hot weekend in an Osaki Police Station cell. Fatigue reduced their consciousness to a dim awareness, so that Monday morning in August, after an insurance fraud and murder case veered in another direction, the powers that were decided to get the twins out of the building. Startled awake by the “on your feet, on your feet” a bored police officer rattled keys and stomped his boots just to frighten to two rat-like creatures as they wiped sleep from their beady eyes.

“What?” Joji whined.

“You’re leaving,” the officer said, unable to muster any concern.

“What?” Ishi’s suspicion was of a practical nature. Being caught breaking and entering in a copier repair shop where a body lay dead, he was sure prison was in his future, not freedom.

“Get up and get out of here,” the officer said. “Go see the sergeant on your way out.”

The twins found their way to the Sergeant Hiro, plump and with a wise owl countenance. Hiro looked down at the boys over the top of his half-moon glasses. He knew the boys were held that weekend because they had broken into a copier repair shop where a dead man was discovered. The twins had no idea of what had happened and had pleaded their innocence until the interrogations stopped. But that had been on Saturday. This was Monday. Hiro saw the suspicion in their twitching eyes.

“Seems like you boys got lucky. Forensics decided you two had nothing to do with killing that copier repair shop guy,” Hiro said. “And you’re little breaking and entering escapade is being ignored …”

“Really?” Joji twitched, unable to believe his freedom was only a few feet past the station’s front door.

“… thanks to Inspector Sato. And the chief. So do the smart thing. Get out of Gotanda as fast as possible. And stay out of Gotanda.”

“But…” Joji began, but Ishi only said, “What day is it today?”

Hiro cast a worried glance at the boys. “Monday, August 19.”

Joji began to count on his fingers how many days they had been locked up. He lost count after two.

“Okay,” Ishi hissed as he grabbed his brother by the arm and followed a waiting officer out a back door of the station. A minute later, the twins were walking down Yamate-dori, free to go where they pleased.

“Something’s not right,” Joji said.

“They let us go,” Ishi replied.

“You think Katsuhara had anything to do with this?” Joji doubted getting out of jail for no good reason. What he doubted more was the benevolence of Fat Katsuhara, a top captain and right-hand man to yakuza kingpin Ses Fujimori. Katsuhara occasionally had the twins do small jobs. Usually it got the boys in jail.

“I hope not,” Ishi said. “I think we’re in trouble, maybe not with the cops, but with the fat man.”

“Yeah. I don’t want to go anywhere near the fat man.”

“What about going back to the garage?” Joji’s question worried Ishi. He knew that when a cop like Sergeant Hiro said stay out of Gotanda, he meant it. His brain ached from the thoughts invading his brain: No place to go. No money. No food. All of their belongings at their cousin’s machine shop and no way to get there except by foot. Hot, tired, hungry and thirsty, the twins faced a long walk to a place where they were sure they would not be welcome.

Despite the sergeant’s warning, the twins agreed only place they could think of to go was their cousin’s machine shop on the other side of Gotanda station. It was the last home they had, two cots off to the side of a greasy work area. Sure of Katsuhara’s fury if he caught sight of them or knew where they were hiding, the twins walked, talked, tried to think of how to stay out of trouble, but came up with nothing other than getting their bag of a few clothes and the bar of soap and they towel they shared.

Ishi said, “Lets go.” Joji fell into step by his side.

A dozen yards behind the twins, slow and steady, a white Toyota panel van followed the twins as they walked east side toward the Yamanote elevated commuter rail line. At a red light it sped to the corner, a door opened, a man jumped out, grabbed the twins, shoved them into the van, and as the van sped off as the door slid shut and the lock clicked.

When the twins overcame their bewilderment, they saw the faces of Katsuhara thugs, young men snarling under punch perms and willing to knife their prey without blinking. The twins had been assigned one thug each. The driver was equally fierce. But it was the man in the passenger seat that got the twins’ attention.

“You two have been busy.”

Ishi and Joji glanced up saw demonic black mane of Dragon Matsumura, nephew of a Fujimori captain and their nemesis from the days when Dragon recruited potential Fujimori foot soldiers from the bosozoku motorcycle gangs. Matsumura made sport of the likes of the Kobayashis. The twins both had the same thought at the same moment: “We’re dead.”

Matsumura had seen to it that no police were following the twins. He also was sure they only thing any onlooker would do after seeing to boys hustled into a van is stop, stare, and go on about their business. He was told the cops would let the twins go after realizing they were small fry not worth housing and feeding for another day, but then, the cops were liable to do anything. When a Fujimori contact at the station said the twins were being set free, Dragon got the word: Pick them up.

Joji, too nervous to speak, glanced at Ishi, who managed to say, “Where are we–”

“Shut up.”

Matsumura kept his eyes on the road.

The twins then recognized the driver. Shiro Nakano, a motorcycle gang delinquent who acted tough and wanted to prove it. The Kobayashi twins knew him from Kenbo’s motorcycle shop in Shinjuku, a teen gang hangout where the twins were treated like vermin.  

Joji and Ishi glanced at the back of Matsumura’s head, then at the rear-view mirror. Nakano’s fierce scowl unnerved them.

They clutched each other’s arms.

“You little shits. You can’t stay out of trouble for a day without fucking up big time,” Matsumura’s disdain spewing from his angry lips.

“We didn’t -”

“Shut up.”

Unable to see out a window, Ishi and Joji glanced at the floor, each other, Matsumura, and Nakano, their breathing quickening, their nerves fraying.

“You two are costing me a morning when I could be doing something else. Certainly not driving you around,” Matsumura snarled. “But I’m here to give you a message. Stay away from anything Fujimori. You have nothing to do with the Fujimori clan, the Fujimori name, nothing, nothing to do with Fujimori. Nothing. You do not say the name, you do not talk about anything you know, you think you might know. You don’t talk to anyone about anything you’ve said or done. Got it?”

“Yes.”

“I hear of anything, you’re dead. Fat Katsuhara hears anything, you’re twice as dead. No associates, no riding clubs, no one. You’re through. Got it?”

“Yes.”

“Now get out.”

Joji’s minder opened the side panel door and the soon Joji and Ishi found themselves pushed to the ground in front of their cousin’s machine shop.

What little native intelligence the twins’ possessed had by now lead them to realize the men was not going to beat them.

“But…” Joji began.

“Don’t forget,” Matsumura said, his finger running across his throat. It was the last thing the twins saw before the van pulled away.

Picking themselves up and brushing themselves off, Ishi and Joji Kobayashi notice huge bay door into the machine shop is closed. Furtively looking about, they quickly walk along the side of the building to the back of the garage. They know the book door alarm latch had been broken and unrepaired the last time there were at the shop. Each wished it remained so.

As the peeked around the corner they saw the door shut. But the alarm still appeared broken.

“What are we going to do?” Joji asked.

“We have to try something, ” Ishi replied as he slowly crept to the door and turned the knob.

It opened.

With no alarm sounding.

The twins scampered into the shop as fast as they could, shut the door behind them and for the first time that morning, began to believe they were out of trouble.

Traitors & Lies
A Shig Sato Mystery
Look for it December 16
at Amazon
and other vendors Jan. 1

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Inside, outside, in between

ss3new5smHave you ever noticed how sometimes events outside your world cause you to turn inward?      To reflect?  Maybe even give you the time to summon the courage to take action?

I have been living inside myself for several weeks now, finishing Shig Sato book 3, Traitors & Lies. I have to be honest: the events of the last few weeks did not encourage me to go outside myself. Truth is, I think writers and everyone who create must live inside themselves in order to exist in the world.

Traitors & Lies continues the story of former Tokyo police Inspector Shig Sato, now a private investigator and a reluctant one at that. It is August 1991. Turmoil in Moscow brings the Soviet leadership to the brink of a coup d’etat. And it is seven weeks after the death of Shig’s beloved wife, Miki. Our story begins the day after Miki’s shijūkunichi, her 49th day memorial. Shig finds out a mutilated body has been discovered in Tokyo Bay. This gives his crime-solving instincts a spark: who is this person, and why are they in the bay? Upon returning to Tokyo to resume his P.I. work, he is asked to find a missing person: a U.S. Navy officer who has not reported for duty at the American embassy.

Shig knows he must set aside his mourning. But outside events overtake him as he regains a sense of himselfs while pursuing the answers to two questions: where is the missing American? And who is the body in the bay?

Traitors & Lies. Be ready for it this December.

Discover the world of Shig Sato. Get the Shig Sato Book 1  The Gangster’s Son  at no cost – just click here. And for more on what’s happening in the World of Shig Sato, click here for my newsletter.