The Moving Blade

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of smoothly cultivated Japanese-American relations. He leaves a missing manuscript, an undelivered keynote speech and a tangled web of connections.

His estranged daughter, Jamie, returns from America for his funeral, but is almost killed when she starts uncovering her father’s past. She drags Detective Hiroshi Shimizu from the safe confines of his office into the interlocked realities of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the American military bases, and Asian stability.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi and his mentor Takamatsu, Hiroshi uncovers all too many reasons why the respected, longtime diplomat would have his stomach sliced open. After two more killings—back street, short-blade sword—Hiroshi tracks the killer through decrepit bars, the top echelons of Japan’s Diet, and the fading elegance of Tokyo’s westernized Asian-ness.

The status quo is more powerful in Japan than in any country in the world, but when the past erupts into the present, Hiroshi finds out just how dangerous the US-Japan relations can be. As the layers of corruption peel back, Hiroshi must choose between violence and procedure, between desire and duty, between the different sides of his own character.


“A true page turner with main characters that come alive with intelligence, curiosity and imperfections.” Blue Ink Review 

“This novel knocks it out of the park. An homage to Tokyo and a savagely entertaining mystery.” SPR Review

“One of the year’s best thrillers.”

“Fun and thrilling throughout, an excellent potboiler—an exciting modern mystery.” Foreword Clarion Reviews

“This book made it to my favorites list before I even finished reading it.” Literary Titan

“An elegant balance of Japanese customs with an American-style hard-boiled procedural.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 

“A tight, rock-solid installment in a series that’s only getting better.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Ripe with surprising plot twists that take the reader into the deep underbelly of Tokyo.” Kat Kennedy for US Review of Books

“For anyone with a fascination or even a curiosity about Japan, this is a great crime novel.” Crime Fiction Lover

“A powerfully written crime novel; often stark and unsettling. The characters spring off the page.” The Wishing Shelf

“A stellar novel with a unique storyline and setting. The Moving Blade is fresh and original.” BookLife Prize 

“A first-rate murder mystery, played out against the exotic urban backdrop of Japan's largest city, and expertly written.”  Publisher’s Daily Reviews

“The second in the Detective Hiroshi series is another cracker: real tension and a scenario which is (unfortunately) only too believable.” The Bookbag

“A rich serving of a thriller, The Moving Blade is a well-cooked and tasty sukiyaki of a novel, written by an American who knows Japan well.” Chanticleer Reviews

“An atmospheric, tense, and engaging read. Plots, protests, questions, and secrets drive the reader forward.” Reader’s Favorite

Named One of Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Mysteries and Thrillers (2018)

Grand Prize Winner Chanticleer International Book Awards Global Thrillers (2018)

Winner Independent Press Award for Crime Fiction (2019)

Gold Award Literary Titan Book Award (2018)

Five Star Honoree B.R.A.G. Medallion (2018)

Gold Award Independent Publisher Awards for Mystery (2019)

Finalist Best Book Awards (2018)

Finalist The Wishing Shelf Book Awards (2018)

Honorable Mention Reader Views Literary Awards (2018-9)

Finalist Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Mystery (2019)

Finalist Indie Excellence Awards for Mystery (13th Annual Contest)

Profile Photo Michael Pronko

About Michael Pronko

Michael Pronko is a Tokyo-based writer of murder, memoir and music. His writing about Tokyo life and taut character-driven mysteries have won awards and five-star reviews. Kirkus Reviews selected his second novel, The Moving Blade for their Best Books of 2018. The Last Train won the Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book.

Michael runs the website, Jazz in Japan, which covers the vibrant jazz scene in Tokyo and Yokohama. During his 20 years in Japan, he has written about Japanese culture, art, society and politics for Newsweek Japan, The Japan Times, and Artscape Japan. He has read his essays on NHK TV and done programs for Nippon Television based on his writings.

A philosophy major, Michael traveled for years, ducking in and out of graduate schools, before finishing his PhD on Charles Dickens and film, and finally settling in Tokyo as a professor of American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University. His seminars focus on contemporary novels, short stories and film adaptations.

All books by Michael Pronko

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