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Pink Slips

Pink Slips

Pink Slips is a riveting tale of one woman’s desperate plight to keep her loved ones safe, even in the sights of a mysterious stalker with an unsettling amount of determination. From the outside looking in, good-humored Betsy seems to have it all – a beautiful home, a dapper and doting family, a successful career as a gourmet chef, and even a fabulous little furry companion. Still, looks can be deceiving, and in the complex life of Betsy, a storm is breaking. Author Beth Aldrich masterfully weaves the unbounded strength of family and friendship into the tense mix of danger and pursuit, making this as heartfelt as it is chilling.

Truth be told, the emotional personality of this novel had me enamored immediately. The story opens warmly, inviting you directly into Betsy’s thoughts as she gleefully ponders over the fresh news of her first pregnancy. Her inner monologue is so charmingly real, and it was easy to imagine her gossiping to me with excitement for the little bean just beginning to grow within her. Unfortunately, life is often a blend of both miraculous beauty as well as senseless cruelty, and as Betsy is strolling through a parking lot, she’s interrupted by a mugger fixated on her handbag. This encounter feels as tragic as it does plausible, as raw moments like this unfortunately happen every single day. Reading along, my eyes began brimming with tears as I absent-mindedly gnawed off the tip of a fingernail. Aldrich has made such beautiful work of tapping into Betsy’s personal thoughts, gripping me with her fear in that moment. As the first chapter came to an end, I found myself hurriedly turning the pages, awaiting the fate of our beloved mother-to-be.

There is a famous saying to the effect of “What does not kill you makes you stronger,” but in tender Betsy’s case, stronger would be better replaced with “paranoid”. Years of meditation have served to soften the edges of her anxiety, but some trauma you just never fully recover from. When suspicious pink notes begin arriving in her life boasting threats, Betsy is forced to revisit the fear of that fateful night in the parking lot. She has worked diligently to create the loving and comfortable home around her, and it’s no surprise that she isn’t willing to let that be endangered twice. Again, I found myself furiously chewing at my own nails as I cheered her on, anxious of the long list of suspicious characters possibly behind the ominous pink slips. Luckily, Aldrich writes with a bright wittiness that balances the heaviness of the theme, or I wouldn’t have had any nails left by the end.

Aside from being endearing, this story is also incredibly digestible, despite being so darkly thematic at points. I read it in a mere two sittings. I really can’t pen enough praise for Aldrich’s cheeky and personal writing style. Even in the throes of a deranged stalker, each main character sports such flavorful personality that the novel stays warm and engaging throughout. I can’t wait to catch another title from this author.

Pages: 267 | ASIN: B071LKC325

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The Last Train: A Tokyo Thriller

The Last Train

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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