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Takako is a former motorbike patrolwoman-turned-detective who is partnered with an older, seasoned, misogynist detective in a murder investigation. Their search reveals that the victim ran a dating club for men to meet high-school girls, and had previously been involved in the nightclub underworld of Roppongi. Before long, the case is linked to another death, this time apparently the result of an attack by a large dog. As Takako and Takizawa question experts in kennel clubs and police dog training centers, the dog strikes again. They soon realize that the animal responsible is actually half-dog, half-wolf. The trail leads to Kasahara, a former police dog handler; his deeply troubled daughter; and the shocking revelation that Kasahara had owned and trained a wolf-dog called Hayate to kill on command. But Hayate has escaped and is killing on his own. As Takako becomes increasingly fascinated with this highly intelligent, dangerous creature, she must use all her wits and insight to track down and stop Hayate before he strikes again.
The Hunter is sophisticated, challenging and evocative noir mystery fiction and is sure to have readers clamoring for more books in the Takako Otomichi series.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 38.
- Review Date: 2006-12-04
- Reviewer: Staff
The 1996 winner of Japan's Naoki Prize, Nonami's engaging, complex police procedural, her first English-language publication, introduces Tokyo detective Takako Otomichi, who, having weathered a difficult divorce, must contend with her culture's disapproval of female police officers. Otomichi faces her greatest professional challenge when she teams with veteran Sgt. Tamotsu Takizawa to solve the murder of Takuma Sugawara, a businessman who bursts into flames at a popular family restaurant. Forensics soon demystify the sudden conflagration when traces of a chemical detonator are found in the victim's belt, but the inquiry takes a whole new tack when bite marks on Sugawara are linked to a series of fatal attacks by a wolflike predator. While some readers may find the whodunit aspect a bit routine, all will hope to see more of the prolific Nonami's work made available in the U.S. (Feb.)
On the crime beat in Tokyo
As this is my first review written from within the confines of my tiny Tokyo apartment, it seems especially fitting to lead off with a Japanese author. Asa Nonami makes her first foray into English-language mysteries with The Hunter, translated by the talented Julia Winters Carpenter, who impressed readers (including this one) with her English rendering of Miyuki Miyabe's 2004 thriller, Shadow Family. Originally released in Japan in 1996, where it won the prestigious Naoki Prize, The Hunter stands poised to take aim at Western markets this month. The heroine, beleaguered police detective Takako Otomichi, is as complex and conflicted a protagonist as any in recent memory. The product of an affirmative-action type program to bring more females into positions of power in the workplace, Otomichi is by turns coddled, patronized and outright dissed by her co-workers. On top of that, she is recently divorced, her sister is semi-suicidal, her mother is a harpy and her new partner is a misogynist of the first order. Otomichi's latest assignment finds her hot on the trail of a murderous canine, possibly a cross between a large dog and a wolf. Surprisingly, there is a society, albeit a loosely knit and somewhat clandestine one, that promotes the breeding of these clever and ferocious animals; to Otomichi's dismay, the key figures all seem to be cops. And what's a girl to do when the cops all stick together to keep a female officer out of the loop? The answer, of course, is to stay one step ahead, to beat the bullies at their own game, a task that Otomichi is well up to. The Hunter is a first-rate page-turner, sure to have readers queuing up for a sequel.