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Shitamachi Scam
by Michael Pronko


After the suspicious deaths of seventy-something woman and a student recluse, Detective Hiroshi tracks down a gang of scammers who target retirees, robbing them of their pensions, life savings, and even the deeds to their homes. Hiroshi teams up with Detective Ishii, who’s been running a women’s crime task force. Together, they find out who has been ripping off the pensions, life savings, and deeds to homes in shitamachi, the older, eastern side of the city.

With his personal life on hold (almost), Hiroshi finds out how complex the traditional life of Tokyo still is. With old-school Detective Takamatsu and ex-sumo wrestler Chief Sakaguchi watching his back, he finds out who’s behind the scams, and who’s behind the scammers.

Money makes people murderous.

Diligent and dogged, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is back for book six of Michael Pronko’s thrilling Tokyo-based series, packed with popular characters.


The story weaves in and out of different investigations in Shitamachi, the older, eastern side of the city. This ancient landscape - with narrow paths formed as footpaths centuries before cars - is changing, and this change is being driven by real estate developers working the system.

With Tokyo’s changing landscape providing a route for criminality, Detective Ishii has been running a task force on crimes against women, with Ueno determined to help. People are being robbed of their pensions, life savings, even their homes, as a gang are successfully ripping off the elderly. Japan’s greying population is a growing victim pool. Its tradition of respecting the elderly seems to be helping well-spoken scammers who know all the right words, the formal terms of address, the polite verb forms. Beyond the scamming now body bags are leaving retirement homes.

After the financial scamming crosses into murder, a street mugging gone wrong? - fake notes suggest otherwise - Hiroshi’s skills are needed on the case. Running alongside this death, a reclusive student has been found dead in a dorm. The student’s actions prior to their death, and secret camera footage, are intriguing and concerning, the whys of which may be connected to the scamming.

Hiroshi and his girlfriend Ayana are expecting a child as their relationship is under strain. If you’ve read an earlier book in the series then you’ll already be invested because you’ll know characters. Sakaguchi, the chief of homicide and a former sumo wrestler, is also back. Not met them before? Not to worry, at the start of the novel is a list of all the colourful characters with very brief biographies to help get you up to speed.


About the author:

Michael Pronko is a Tokyo-based writer of murder, memoir and music. He's published four novels in the Detective Hiroshi series, and three books of short writings about Tokyo life.

Michael grew up in Kansas City, studied philosophy at Brown University, and then traveled for years, teaching in Beijing, finishing an MA in Education and another in Comparative Literature before completing his PhD on film adaptations of Charles Dickens. As a professor of American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University, he teaches seminars on contemporary novels, film, and culture. Michael runs the website, Jazz in Japan, which covers the jazz scene in Tokyo. During his 20-plus years in Japan, he has written about Japanese culture, art, society and politics for Newsweek Japan, The Japan Times, and Artscape Japan. He has read his essays on NHK TV and done programs for Nippon Television based on his writings.




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