For a mystery fan, what’s more fun than discovering a terrific new author? I heard about Jonelle Patrick from a mutual friend who’s also her agent — a recommendation I trusted enough to buy her first book, Nightshade. Now I can’t wait to read her whole “Only in Tokyo” mystery series.
Nightshade starts with three bodies in a car in the parking lot of a Shinto shrine — an inexplicable scene which looks like a triple suicide, except that the third victim has no link to her two “parents.” When the dead girl’s best friend, Yumi, learns the horrible news, she spots other distortions in the picture the police are eager to accept. Yumi’s discovery that the detective in charge is her old school friend Kenjo, who’s grown into an unexpectedly attractive man, churns up all kinds of complications, first to the case and then to her ripening romance with a corporate heir. Woven through the Tokyo scenery are online connections which become strands in the web that threatens to drag Yumi to the same deadly fate as her friend.
Jonelle Patrick is not only an outstanding plotter (rare) but an outstanding writer (very rare). To top it off, she has a sharp sense of what makes Japan fascinating and also baffling to Americans. I was intrigued to learn about the Goth Lolita crowd, maid cafes (where the waitress’s job goes beyond serving the customer to fawning all over him), arranged marriages, the hierarchy in Japan’s police force, and so much more. This is a compelling mystery with distinctive characters, a fast-moving plot, a strong romantic thread, and a wonderful setting. I’d have preferred a full resolution at the end rather than a read-the-next-book teaser, but the core mystery was resolved, so that’s a minor quibble. Highly recommended!