The Gangster’s Son
My rating:5 of 5 stars
With his first novel, Joseph Mark Brewer has created a fascinating character in Shig Sato. Set in 1991 Japan this is not just another murder mystery or detective story. With subtle and not so subtle hints at the political climate of the time, Japan’s gangster culture and the yakuza, and the antipathy for the American military presence in Japan, Brewer builds a tale of suspense. This who-done-it is richly written, setting the stage for old friendships and the Japanese respect for paying off “debts”. A society based on honor also has a dark side and the responsibilities of the past are sometimes used for dishonest gains. Shig Sato is a man of honor who is returning to work after taking time off to care for his terminally ill wife. As he investigates the murder of a cocktail waitress he must navigate the thorny paths of possible American military involvement, the uneasy relationship of an old friend’s son to the crime, and the jealousy of others in the police force who seek to dishonor him. Juggling all these balls he is also coping with the deterioration of his wife’s medical condition and the knowledge she does not have long to live. The latter is important to the plot since it often explains some of the missteps this smart investigator makes as he searches the clues for answers to the mystery. Torn between debts from his past and his drive for justice, Sato must decide what is right. It is his dying wife who finally leads him to the answer. Vividly bringing the terrain of Japan to life with his descriptions of neighborhoods and their inhabitants, Brewer skillfully allows Sato to lead us through his hunt for the killer. With a surprising twist at the end, Sato proves he is more than capable in spite of the road blocks he faces. This is a clever story that held my interest from the beginning. I look forward to the next adventure of Shig Sato. There are some typos and errors but the story is so good they had no impact on my enjoyment of the book.