Read a Book a Week Challenge!

readabook

Here’s to 2018 bringing you health, happiness, and many hours of reading enjoyment, whomever you choose.

My challenge to myself is to read more. I’m aiming for a book a week, 52 books in 2018. I hope you’ll join me. Any book, any topic, any genre: a book a week.

And for fun: send me an email and tell me what book you’ve read, if you liked it (or not), if you’d recommend it (or not), and I’ll post it here.

The Every Wednesday Reading Club starts January 10th.

Don’t miss out!

All the best,

Joe

Advertisements

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.

Get to know Shig Sato – Serial Killers in Japan

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow, my latest Shig Sato Mystery, could have been ripped from the headlines — but it wasn’t.

I write about crime and events that are common anywhere in the world, but place them in 1990s Tokyo, with my characters Shig Sato, Ken Abe, Mo Kato, Hisoka Endo, the Kobayashi twins, and all the other folks who populate the stories.

But the serial killer phenomenon isn’t new. It’s very real, and it has a history in that country just as in another other.

What’s grabbing the headlines now: a woman seeking a suicide partner led police to a residence in Zama where severed heads were found in coolers. You can read the story from The New York Times by clicking the link here. Some politicians blame the crime on the alleged killer playing video games. You can read the SoraNews24 story here.

And the case of the ‘Black Widow’ – woman sentenced to death for killing her husbands and other men by having them drink cyanide. You can read a story here  courtesy The Japan Times.

Ripped from the headlines, a story all it’s own, with the inimitable Shig Sato on the case. Cat’s Meow.

See you tomorrow!

Cat’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.

 

Get to know Shig Sato – Tokyo Metropolitan Police

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (Keishichoo) serves as the police force for the Tokyo metropolis. It is headed by a superintendent general, who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission and approved by the Prime Minister. The

13090901
One of hundreds of police kobans.

headquarters building, shaped like a wedge with cylindrical towers on top, is located in the Kasumigaseki district, near the Justice ministry and the Imperial Palace. There are 102 police stations in the metropolitan area, and 826 koban, a small neighborhood police station and a critical part of department’s community police efforts. There are 256 residential kobanAnywhere from one to ten officers can be assigned to a koban. The officers keep watch, respond to emergencies, and interact with the public.

Shig Sato joined the department in 1951, leaving his his studies at Waseda University to earn a living to support his family after the death of his maternal grandfather, who was his main paternal figure after his father was drafted when he was just eight years old. He met his future wife, Miki, while a student at Waseda. Shig’s training and initial assignments were no different than any other young police officer. His supervisors noticed his quiet determination and ability to put seemingly dissimilar actions and clues together to solve a crime. But like most young, single police officers, he lived in police housing and worked in several kobans before his true value was recognized and rewarded.

If you have read the prequel novel Tokyo Summer, you’ll learn about the circumstances that led to a move late in Shig’s career. He was assigned to the Security Police, a protection unit mandated to protect domestic and foreign VIPs on Japanese soil. The officers where suits, distinctive pins and ties, and the service is modeled after the U.S Secret Service. High ranking minsters of state, such as the Prime Minister, President of the House of Councilors, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and foreign ambassadors and visiting dignitaries all are protected by the Security Police. Shig was, for a time, assigned to the Imperial Household Agency, protecting the Emperor, Empress, and the royal family.

But Shig’s ability to solve crime enabled him to leave the security services as his retirement neared. It was during this return to criminal investigations that sets the stage for The Gangster’s Son. The events of the summer of 1991 continue through Book 2, The Thief’s Mistake, and Book 3, Traitors & Lies. Book 4, Cat’s Meow, takes place in the autumn of that year. But things have not gotten much better for Shig.

Or have they?

Cat’s Meow is available now for pre-order on Amazon. Just click for your copy – and find out!

See you tomorrow!

41BihmTO1ILCat’s MeowCat’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.

 

Today’s the day! The new Shig is out

After writing a Japan ex-pat novel a friend of mine told me the most interesting part of the story was a minor character,  a private investigator. I kept some of the other characters in the story. That’s how the Shig Sato mysteries were born.

Over the last four years I’ve had a blast writing the series. Book 3, Traitors & Lies, is available on Amazon today, December 16.

And two more books are set to come out in 2017! Nobody should be having this much fun.

jmbfbnew

I invite you to enjoy Traitors & Lies – and discover the World of Shig Sato.

It’s fun for me. I hope they’re fun for you.

Merry Christmas!

Discover the World of Shig Sato. Tokyo Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is yours when you sign up for my mailing list. No strings attached. Just click

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.

 

 

Freebie Weekend – The Gangster’s Son : A body identified

CanvaJBpicAmazLogoThe Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake are free Labor Day Weekend – it’s a great way to discover the world of Shig Sato. Just click here and then once more – or twice!  – for your copies – yep – for free. And be sure to look out for Shig Sato No. 3, Traitors & Lies, debuting this fall.

Here’s an excerpt from Shig Sato Mystery Book :1 The Gangster’s Son

(The parents of Kimi Yamada learn of their daughter’s death and must go identify her body.)

gangster3Mysterious knocking ended Yosh and Miyako Yamada’s summer slumber. Even as they tightened their robes as if to protect themselves from what the two policemen were saying, a slow ballet of shock and grief stirred in their hearts as they tried to comprehend words like “dead” and “Kimi” and “Roppongi” and “a short time ago” and “can you identify the body right away?” Time shifted to a meaningless state, and they took no notice of their actions or their surroundings as they fell into hell.

Before they realized what they were doing, Kimi Yamada’s parents found themselves driving from their home in the western suburbs through dimly lit, unfamiliar streets, looking for the place where the police said they could find their daughter. Searching kept their minds occupied as an incomprehensible torment squeezed their souls.

Eventually they found the building they were directed to go to, the building caped in the dark of night, surrounded by harsh streetlights. They parked their modest sedan as close to the shiny glass doors as possible, and it took some time before the couple was aware that a tall man chewing a toothpick was standing by the large glass doors.

As they approached the doors the man opened one and held it open for them as he said, “My name is Kato. I’m a police officer. Please follow me.”

Without saying anything, the Yamadas meekly followed Kato to where the unthinkable would become real.

Kato watched Kimi Yamada’s parents arrive to identify the body of their daughter in the small hours of that Saturday morning in June. He saw life extinguished from their eyes, their bodies bent, hands shaking, the mother clinging to the father.

They dutifully followed Kato down a hallway no different from any other building in Tokyo, but in their minds the Yamadas were now capturing each step they took, frame by frame  like a torturous slow-motion moving picture. They tried to will time to stop long enough for them to flee their fate, but no matter how hard they tried, they found themselves in that horrible place, following the tall man.

“Is she here?” Mrs. Yamada whispered as they walked down a corridor.

“Yes.”

“Did she –”

“Come with me,” was all Kato said.

The silence became unbearable.

“She’s such a good girl,” Mr. Yamada whispered. “She’s such a good student. She plays the piano.”

“Yes,” Kato said.

“She is our only child,” the father whispered. “She never gives us any trouble.”

“Until she took that job…” the mother began, but fell silent.

“She speaks English. She wants to …” but words failed the father.

Kato said nothing as his solid footsteps pounded a beat on the linoleum under the Yamada’s hesitant shuffle, a miserable rhythm filling the corridor, punctuating the stillness sad government buildings inhabit.

The inevitable turned out to be quite simple: Kato pulled back the sheet covering Kimi Yamada’s face. Her parents took one horrible look and their mournful tears affirmed her identification.

Kato asked his question anyway.

“Is this Kimi Yamada?”

“Yes,” the father croaked, fighting a new wave of grief, but resolved not to look away.

“Her face,” her mother screamed in a hollow voice with no volume, no depth. “Did that man do that?”

“Which man?” Kato asked as he gently covered Kimi and led the pair to standard, hard plastic chairs meant for anything but comfort.

“The black foreigner,” the mother said, ashamed that she had to say the words out loud.

“We’re looking at everything, checking every fact,” Kato replied, wondering how the inspector was getting along with that.

The mother brushed back a strand of her hair, but kept her eyes on the floor, shame and anger in her words. “We insisted she break things off with that, that soldier. We insisted! I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something to do with this!”

“We’re looking into it.”

“He’s an American, just a common soldier,” she said, giving way to fresh anger. “She deserved better than him! She deserved better than …” But her grief swallowed her whole, and she dissolved into her husband’s arms.

“Mr. Yamada?”

The man looked at Kato.

“Do you have someplace you can go, other than your home?”

“What?”

“Do you have someplace you can stay for a few days? Other than your home?”

“Why?”

“Sometime soon, reporters and photographers will find out who you are and where you live, and you don’t need that kind of bother right now. Do you have a relative or friend you can stay with for a few days?”

“I don’t know …”

“Mr. Yamada, your daughter was killed by someone. We’re working the case. Eventually people will find out that it was your daughter who was killed, and then they will come looking for you for a comment. Do you want that?”

“No!” Mrs. Yamada sat up, fierce and determined. “The jackals. Why can’t they leave us alone?”

“I have a sister …” Mr. Yamada began.

Kato said, “I suggest you go there, straight from here, and stay there for a day or two. Let things play out.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Mr. Yamada asked.

Kato knew if the GI did have something to do with the murder, pandemonium would fall on everyone, especially the Yamadas. Kato wanted them one step ahead of the television crews and newspaper photographers.

But all he said was, “Sometimes, things can only be made worse for you two at a time like this. Please don’t say anything to the press or anyone else until we have a chance to check our facts and find a suspect. I promise to call you when we have made an arrest. Okay?”

“Yes, yes,” the father said wearily. “We’ll go to my sister’s place. In Chiba.” As he wiped his tears, he said, “We have to make arrangements …”

Kato wrote down the several phone numbers the Yamadas recited. Then he escorted them out of the morgue and watched as they walked the way people do when leaving a terrible place. The woman’s last words to him rested uneasily on his mind.

“Find that man. He killed my Kimi.”

Don’t miss out on the latest Shig news and giveaways. Sign up for my monthly newsletter at my website, www.josephmarkbrewer.com.  

National Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month. In my ‪#‎ShigSato‬ mystery The Thief’s Mistake, a boy with autism provides key information for Sato in his quest to stop a psychotic killer.
For every book sold in April, I am contributing the proceeds from the book’s sale to the Autism Society. Here are some links:

kindle mybook.to/SSMb
nook  http://bit.ly/1UGOkkd
iBook  http://apple.co/1KfecNv
smashwords  http://bit.ly/1UwDNrw

The World of Shig Sato: Women and Medicine in Japan

In the world of Shig Sato in 1991, our hero is dealing with the loss of his beloved police career due to forced retirement at age 60, But more importantly, he is mourning the death of his beloved wife, Miki, a physician who specialized in gerontology. Shig and Miki’s love was built on mutual respect, admiration, and dedication to serving others. Miki’s desire to become a doctor was born in the war years of the 1940s when as a young teen she helped out her uncle, a doctor, and aunt, a nurse, caring for wounded in the aftermath of the air raids in Nagoya and surrounding areas in her home prefecture of Aichi.Ginko Ogino

But was it a realistic goal for a young woman in the 1940s? Perhaps. The story of women in medicine Japan dates back as far as the ancient healers and midwives. Changes to modern Japan came after it opened itself to the West in the 1850s – the modern world came to Japan’s shores. This led to opportunities for determined women.  Ginko Ogino (pictured) was the first licensed and practicing woman physician in Japan in the 1880s, practicing obstetrics and gynecology. Kei Okama was the first Japanese woman to earn a degree in Western medicine, having studied at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania while she and her husband were in the United States. She graduated in 1889 and upon her return to Japan she worked at the Jikei University School of Medicine hospital and opened her own clinic. Like Ogino, Okama was married to a Japanese Christian.

Educational opportunities for women expanded in postwar Japan, but old traditions die hard. A young woman with intelligence, determination and drive faced a daunting academic and practical education in order to be a practicing physician. Prevailing misogynistic attitudes were always a challenge to overcome. And family pressures to marry and have children prevailed. Perhaps Miki Sato was born at the right time – when she began her medical studies in the early 1950s, fewer barriers existed than during the time of Ogino and Okama. Perhaps she met the right man: Shig Sato came from a family of strong women he respected and admired. Still, the economic boom that helped lead Japan to the join Western democracies was still decades away. Miki, and her country, were finding their way in the modern world.