Michael Pronko is a scholar and an on Japanese culture. He is also an excellent story teller that captivates readers and takes them on an adventure through his words. The Last Train is set in Tokyo, and even if you have never been to Tokyo, don’t worry, Pronko draws you into the life there. His attention to detail is not limited to the scenery, but the customs and mannerisms that make up the Japanese’s culture. There is extensive time devoted explaining the life and world revolving around the hostess clubs, not sex clubs, rather clubs where men go to find a woman to entertain them for a period of time, while drinking and getting their ego stroked. It is within this society of hostess clubs that murder mystery is flushed out. A killer, targeting foreign investors is using the trains as her weapon of choice.
The story revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. She was raised by her father and his workers. She learned early that business is not always neat and clean, and that sometimes getting their hands dirty and making backdoor deals is the norm there. As Pronko tells Suzuki’s story he alternates between current events and her memories of the past, telling how she got to where she is, and how she has picked her victims. The main detectives investigating are Hiroshi and Takamatsu. Hiroshi is an accountant that due to spending part of his life in America is fluent in English so he works white collar crimes for the police. Takamatsu is a homicide detective that pulls together his own dream team to work on this case. Their case takes a high profile turn and soon they’re dodging politics as well the cultural need to keep everything neat and tidy. Michiko tries to keep her activities low key but when several of her victims survive her plot, things get messy for her and the police.
One of the most fascinating things about this novel is not the mystery aspect. The murder is not a secret from the beginning. What is a mystery is why she is killing people, figuring out what drove her to this life. Hiroshi is a complex character as well, and his dynamic interactions throughout the investigations add to the plot as well as provide an unique look at the culture. Even though he is from Tokyo, spending time in America gave him a different perspective on the way things are done; whereas Takamatsu comes off as the typical Japanese man. They make an interesting and effective partnership. Having the diverse views interacting with witnesses and other characters makes for a dynamic story line, it is diverse and provides multiple views from different cultural perspectives. Much of the story takes place in Roppongi, here you see all the varieties of hostess clubs, the basic lounge style, mud wrestling, nude women, and the high-end invite only David’s Lounge. Each club gives readers a different taste of the culture.
Overall The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a well written and enticing look into the culture of Tokyo. The story behind Michiko Suzuki is compelling and engaging, you can’t help flipping the pages to see what she is going to do next and find out why her victims were chosen. Hiroshi connects well with everyone he interacts with so there is an emotional response from the reader. Pronko uses emotion, mystery and attention to detail to keep the reader engaged and wanting more. I look forward to seeing more from Pronko and hope he has more stories to tell with Hiroshi.
Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M
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A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror follows Lydia who is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school when the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest. What was the inspiration for this very imaginative story?
A quote from Plato’s Apology of Sokrates served as my inspiration for my story:
“something divine and spiritual comes to me, (…) I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward.” – Plato’s Apology of Sokrates- 31d. What if we could not only hear this divine and spiritual voice, but also give it a face? Would we be satisfied with the image? Would it be what we imagined it to be or would it be what others expect it to be?
Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
Like most characters of the story, Lydia has many challenges to overcome and a difficult task to carry. She faces a lot of issues that people today struggle with. That require many morals and values like self-respect, compassion, altruism and justice. Lydia is a strong-willed young girl, who changes and develops these values as she grows up.
The story has a wonderfully unique take on magic mirrors that’s different from the fairy tale version. How did this idea come to you and how did you develop it into a story?
From the beginning I wanted somebody for Lydia to talk to, because it’s not easy for a child to be left grow up alone. This resulted in the creation of Phoebus, who could prove to be a true friend or an enemy. I tried to show how difficult it is for us today to protect ourselves from bad influences. That’s why the reflections in the mirrors are often shaped by how we perceive ourselves through the manipulation of the others.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Currently I’m writing another mystery novel about two very different people, which have nothing in common until they bump on each other. It will be available as soon as the English translation is finished.
“A small bronze gift called “Mirror” follows the story of Lydia, who is forced to go on the run at the age of 6 when her mother is murdered. Protected by her grandmother, Lydia’s life is shrouded in mystery, compounded by the small bronze gift she was given and which she calls ‘mirror’.
At the age of 12, Lydia is left in the care of Mrs. M, and is given a place at a school filled with unusual characters. When she arrives there Lydia discovers that all the children have the same ‘mirror’ as she does. But it’s when she starts to learn how to use it that the real story unfolds and she must undertake a remarkable journey.”
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The Tenth Nail revolves around a homicide detective Nate and his new partner Manuel as they work together to solve the murder of a beautiful young woman. Where did the idea for this novel come from?
I spent several years in law enforcement both as a civilian and military. I carry a deep pride and love for the officers of today and respect what they have to survive. Much of that challenge is to survive the emotional impact of witnessing just how ugly and cruel people can be to each other, day after day. I don’t think the story of the true impact this has on officers has ever been told. Over my years in law enforcement I witnessed too many officers die emotionally. This death could be seen through sexual affairs, abusive drinking, physical violence, reckless behaviors, and even stealing. A quick tally to illustrate this is I knew five officers who died while “on the job.” Two of them died in the line of duty, and three of them died by their own hand. The Tenth Nail is an attempt to introduce the stress of being a cop to those who don’t know.
One of my primary goals when I write a story is to get the reader emotionally involved. Via, the victim of this book is introduced as a common street walking prostitute. A kind of victim that is easily forgotten relatively quickly in our society. In these days of limited budgets and overstretched manpower, she represents the kind of crime that is soon to be a cold crime if not solved in the first few days. Nate, the lead detective assigned to the case, shares a private moment with the dead girl and due to a shared injury promises her he will bring her killer to account for her death. This sets up conflict from many directions. The fact is, if it’s not another girl, who killed her, or her pimp, the odds of finding and convicting the killer of a prostitute is difficult, at best. The department wants Nate to shelve the case to free him to handle cases with a higher possibility of solvability. Manny, Nate’s new partner, and new to homicide, wonders if he should request another training officer. The more he is pushed to release the case, the more resistant Nate becomes. He refuses to break the promise he made to the dead girl.
The Tenth Nail is a edgy crime novel that throws readers right into the action with a murder in the first pages. How did you balance mystery with answers with crazy twists?
I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and I was determined to solve the case before the “great detective.” My mother and I watched hours of Raymond Burr as Perry Mason and we discussed the cases as the show progressed. To balance the mystery without giving the story away to soon requires work. Truthfully, I hope I got the job done.
Detectives Nate and Manny are entertaining and intriguing characters that I felt were well developed. What was your inspiration for their characters and their relationship?
Nate and Manny are combinations of several police officers I have known over the years. I admit that both carry a little bit of me in them, as I have been in both positions as senior and junior partner. I wanted officers (in all cases) who represented more than just the stereotype of cops. I also expected the same from the other characters. One of my favorite scenes is when Manny arrives home after a day much too long and he is still adjusting to his first murder, his first victim, his first expose to Nate and all the rest. Selma, his heavily pregnant wife allows him to lay his head on her lap and stretch out on the sofa. When he kicks off his shoes, she scolds him for wearing socks with a hole in the toe. To me, that is the center of the Tenth Nail, trying to balance extreme violence with complete love.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
My next book is called Dead Men Walking and it is a continuation of the story of Nate and Clare. Several of the characters from The Tenth Nail will return though the are many new ones as well. The plan is to release the book by early summer.
“Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.
Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.
The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.”
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Reverence follows the stories of humanoid super soldiers Will and Luis as they work under their fearless leader and follow his orders to demolish a budding resistance that threatens their utopian world. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
The inspiration came mainly from some of my favorite science fiction films, namely Children of Men, V for Vendetta, Dark City, and Blade Runner. What I wanted to instill most was that Reverence wasn’t purely a dystopian world because some of the people are indeed very happy with what their country had become. The setup of the story for me was establishing the fact that the plot would be driven by conflicting viewpoints, not by purely good vs. evil. The most vital point of the novel was the need for people to question their surroundings, which is a double-edged sword for the main character, Will Marconi. The ending chapters were some of the hardest to write because I wanted to really sell the tragedy of what these people had been reduced to: both sides resorting to violence and lies to accomplish their goals. There is also a tragedy to Will finally removing his blinders about the reality of his environment, but there is a bit of hope, too. That final chapter represents the need to look forward, but not without forgetting the past.
There is a lot of great twists and mystery in the novel. When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
Oh boy, well I should start by saying that Reverence has a convoluted history. Strangely enough, I had the twists in mind as far back as the outline phase. I initially published it back in March of 2016. I noticed something felt off, but I couldn’t figure it out for a bit. Then one day it hit me after watching Anthropoid, a fairly unknown film from 2016 that I hope achieves cult status. The twists and overall story needed more emotion, not to mention it needed more editing overall. So I went back with a professional editor and added more detail at certain points in the story and refined it to a level I was quite happy with. It was re-released in December and I’m glad readers have enjoyed it.
Joseph Halsey is my favorite character because of his moral transformation and strong beliefs. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
The characters all represent different morals, good and bad. With Halsey I wanted to explore a man who, unlike almost every other character in the story, does not take the lives of others for granted. His beliefs stem from that and while the other rebels try to live up to that, they’ve lost their way. The antithesis of that ideal is incarnate in characters like Chancellor Venloran, Luis, and even Robert Neeson. These characters believe progress is worth any cost, even if it means sacrificing lives and sometimes the truth. With Will I wanted one thing to be certain: devotion to ideals is dangerous.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
My God, a whole lot! I’ve already written a sequel to Reverence which I am very proud of. A preview of it was provided in both print and Kindle editions of my first book and it greatly expands on the world. Readers can expect it to be released April of this year. I’m also in the works of writing a prequel to the Reverence saga. I can’t say much, but what I can say is that you can expect it to be released this year as well. The prequel will focus on familiar characters like Robert Neeson, Captain Halsey, and Chancellor Venloran, but the main focus is on Will’s wife and daughter, Julissa and Zaneta. The story will explore the early stages of the UNR-rebel conflict. It’s going to be a great read and aiming for its release to be this summer, maybe around July.
“William Marconi is the face of anguish and righteousness. By his blood stained hands, he inspires the people with both fear and awe. But he is not alone. He is one of the 144, 000 and together they are the guardians of a new order. By their gun and their sword, they have upheld justice. When the peace they have maintained comes under fire from a new threat, William quickly realizes this war could possibly cause the collapse of all he holds dear. As the world is dragged down to hell, this knight must ask himself just how much it will take to accomplish the mission, which could be his last.”
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The TVC Project is the story of a pre-med student Buck and detective Allyson Mancuso as they find themselves thrust into a dark murder mystery, rife with political intrigue. Despite the dangerous world, they have found themselves involved in a seductive romance. At the beginning of the book, Buck is a normal college student focused on his studies and his friends. But a normal night of studying turns his life upside down when his two best friends fail to meet up with him. When Buck discovers that they have been murdered he cannot let go of the investigation until he learns what happened to his friends.
The TVC Project was written by Tom Bridges published in 2013. He is from Dallas Texas and works within the medical field. Bridges background is perhaps the reason behind the realism of Buck’s medical knowledge in the book. Buck and Allyson are both intriguing characters that are given interesting backgrounds that fill out their character and make them feel real. Buck’s history in the navy, making him an older college student at 27, gives his character depth and makes his relationship with detective Mancuso believable. His flaw might be that while we are in his head we see that he perceives himself as an overall “nice guy” despite being sexually aroused in the middle of dealing with the murder of his best friends and memorial services. Allyson herself is given depth in her side hobby of rebuilding her house. The unrealistic part of these characters perhaps comes from how easily Allyson lets Buck in on the case and allows him to partake in the investigation.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is Bridge’s use of character perspective. While much of the book is written from Buck’s perspective; we also get to go into the heads of Allyson and some of the characters behind the murder itself. This writing choice is sure to keep readers captivated as answers coming flying in from different directions along with more questions. I liked that none of the characters had all the answers because this leaves the reader in a perfect position to piece the mystery together.
The story is a fascinating murder mystery and an exciting political thriller all tied up in a passionate romance. It successfully weaves these genres into a thought-provoking story. While the book does come to an end in a satisfying and unique way, it still leaves questions open and possibilities for more to come, which creates a desire to continue reading the second book Bridges wrote as a sequel, Surviving Ghosts. Overall the book was interesting and unpredictable, a necessity for an enjoyable mystery.
Pages: 295 | ASIN: B00FEN4RVG
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BloodBird by Dimitri Markov is part of his Dangerous Doctors series. It is a futuristic novel that explores the possibilities of technological and medical advances. The novel focuses on a young female doctor named Karolena who discovers her chronic liver disease has worsened as she begins to lose her vision. When an unknown donor is presented, Karolena undergoes an experimental transplant which could save both her life and her vision. After the surgery, Karolena develops an interesting ability to see events from the past and into the future. This newfound ability causes her to find out the truth behind the business operations of her hospital, a truth she may not want to know. She tries to find the answers she desires, but quickly learns she can trust no one.
BloodBird is an interesting look into where medical and technological research can expand. It is an interesting look into what the future could hold. The story is a little slow to begin, but it really picks up as Karolena begins to experience her ‘visions’. The author does a good job and roping the reader into the story with well-developed characters and descriptions. There are some dialogue that comes off as being too cliché such as “I am Penny Forest’s mother, and I am here to avenge her death. I loved her very much.” There are plenty of other ways to say the same thing and garner a reaction from the readers. The novel is a hit and miss when it comes to predictability; some things were predictable but there were other wild plot twists that take the reader by surprise. Couple that with Markov’s ability to create complex and interesting characters and you’ll easily lose track of time as your furiously flipping through pages.
Markov spends a lot of time with descriptions and building the setting and tone of the story. He has a unique way of telling his story and getting the readers engaged into the story. At times it feels like he prolongs the story on purpose to make the reader more interested. While these moments seem to drag on, I continued to read the story because of a strong connection to the characters that made me want to find out where the tale will take them. The author creates an interesting futuristic world with things that seem like science fiction, like the transference of people’s memories, and makes them ever so subtly believable.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy future novels, medical experimentation novels, even those who enjoy mysteries. I think BloodBird by Dimitri Markov is a genre crossing novel that would appeal to a variety of people looking for an entertaining read on late nights. It’s slow to develop, but delivers a lot.
Pages: 450 | ISBN: 1517707617
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