Friday, January 14, 2005

A Death in Ueno

"A Death in Ueno" by Mike Wiecek, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2005

This one is a little different: a Japanese PI - in Japan. I'm a sucker for PI stories (that's why I write 'em), and this is a pretty good one.

The PI's name is Sakonju. Hattori, a fisherman by trade, hires him to find a killer. During a 10-day stretch while Hattori was out fishing his older brother was murdered, beaten to death with a brick. The police aren't interested in finding the killer because Hattori's brother was homeless. Hattori hires Sakonju because he feels guilty that he didn't do more to support his brother. He finally wants to do the right thing.

The only clues they have are the mention of a name, Jinguji, and the fact that a year ago Hattori's brother had been picked up in Ueno, an area with a high homeless population. Sakonju goes to Ueno and begins asking questions. Each answer leads him to another question and another answer. A clue is left early on that, in combination with some information Sakonju receives toward the end of the story, leads to the killer.

My one quibble regards this clue. It seemed to me a little incongruous, and thus obvious, when it arose, but I discounted that as being a part of a culture I know little about. That may have been something that Mr. Wiecek was counting on. I would have liked the clue to have been a little more subtle.

Which leads me to setting. It wasn't so foreign that I couldn't identify (the familiar PI tropes helped with that), but you know you're not in Kansas anymore. The foreignness was brought out more by the little things such as vending-machine saki and low doorways.

In short, an enjoyable trip.