I’ve got a small stack of Japan-themed books destined for a blog review one day and, in my head, I like to think I’m reading them in order of when I bought them. When The Bullet Train Murder arrived in the post, it went straight to the top of the list. This is actually the fourth book in the Josie Clark in Japan series by fellow blogger Fran Pickering, so I really recommend reading her other books first to appreciate it properly. You can also read my reviews of The Cherry Blossom Murder and The Haiku Murder on the blog.
The Josie Clark in Japan series follows ex-pat Londoner Josie Clark, a young woman balancing assimilating into life in Tokyo, working for a Japanese company and solving murders. The Bullet Train Murder, my favourite book in the series so far, makes up Josie’s fourth body count. There are a few things that make the story quite different from Josie’s previous adventures. For one, she’s back with her on-off long distance boyfriend, Dave. Secondly, she’s been relocated to Osaka for work (just as Dave moved into her Tokyo flat – meaning he’s still technically a long-distance boyfriend).
If the title didn’t give it away, The Bullet Train Murder takes place on one of Japan’s iconic Shinkansen trains. For once, Josie doesn’t find the body but hears about the circumstances afterwards, meaning she has a much more difficult time of piecing things together. Just a week after relocating to her company’s Osaka office, one of her colleagues is murdered in the disabled toilet of a train travelling to Tokyo. As Josie starts digging into the history of the company and her new colleagues, everyone starts to look like a suspect.
Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while will probably have gathered I’m a fan of the city of Osaka. It’s big, loud and has amazing food. That said, my Mum really didn’t like it when we visited in March (the holiday blog posts are coming soon, I swear!). Obviously, it’s all about personal taste – but Josie seems to be in the same category as my Mum. Her office is a lot more run down than the flashy Tokyo one, for starters, but even with its charms the city doesn’t ooze the same glam and modernity as the capital. On top of that, her boyfriend’s still in Tokyo so she has to make the long commute on the Shinkansen twice a week.
The other main ‘theme’ of this novel for me was, of course, the bullet trains. I’m a bit in love with Japan’s swish Shinkansen, namely because they are sleek, fast and actually run to time. A one-way trip certainly isn’t cheap but it will actually get you smoothly from A to B!
Back to the story itself – I felt that The Bullet Train Murder had the most sophisticated plot to date. The suspects all have very good motives and you are constantly being led towards accusing one person, only to learn something significant about someone else before double-taking and wondering if you’ve been duped. The author fleshes out a good set of characters – the salaryman trio of Koji, Mack and Toru (who brand themselves as Harry, Ron and Hagrid), the seemingly sweet Mimi with ‘lucky ears’ and the murder victim himself, who evolves from an anonymous murder victim to a likeable, moral young man whose life was tragically cut short.
I highly recommend starting from the beginning of the Josie Clark series and checking out Fran Pickering’s blog. Personally, I look forward to reading the next one! You can get the Josie Clark series on Amazon.