Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Nightshade: An Only in Tokyo Mystery
Author: Jonelle Patrick
Publisher: Bancroft and Greene
Pages: 344
ISBN: 978-0-9975709-0-8
Rating: * * * * *

First in an all-new series of mysteries that could happen only in Tokyo...

Yumi Hata went to school in the U.S., but now—back in Tokyo, living with her parents and working as an English translator—she no longer fits in with the fiercely traditional Japanese. If not for her friend Rika, Yumi would feel completely isolated, so when Rika is found dead—suspected of jisatsu, taking part in a suicide pact—Yumi is devastated.

Fortunately, the police investigator in charge of Rika’s case is Yumi’s old schoolmate Kenji, who also wants to clear Rika’s name. As Yumi and Kenji dig up more evidence, they discover that Rika’s “suicide” is not what it seemed.

Chasing Rika’s murderer, Yumi and Kenji encounter doll-faced Lolita fashionistas, trendy bars inhabited by the social elite, and the dark side of a suicide pact website. The clock is ticking as they race to find the killer before the next victim is targeted...

In this novel, Yumi Hata finds out her friend, Rika had died, but she still has to provide proof that it was a murder. After a night on the town that ended in a hangover, Yumi realises during the night out, she and her friend had accidentally swapped their phones. This is only the start of a strange and dark story of a man who lies in wait for women who also have darkness in their hearts.

And if this isn't enough, Yumi is still trying to find her perfect partner, but her dates have a habit of not working out the way she would like. A staff writer at GothxLoli magazine, she doesn't quite fit in with her friends either as they all dress in Goth Lolita style clothing, yet they accept her as their own. To try and take her mind off of her troubles and the recent murder, she sinks into her work and possible lover life as well as trying to find out Rika's killer. Yumi might get her life back into some kind of normality, but not before she gets Detective Nakamura to listen to her and investigate her friend's murder. Though it looks like a double suicide, being found in a car with two much older people Yumi thinks they couldn't know, Yumi has to convince him that it is otherwise.

Jonelle takes readers into the dark and dangerous world of underground clubs, online identities and suicide pacts between older teens. This killer likes to appear online as a saviour, all the while making girls victims of his twisted mind. What is evident is that Rika had ingested pills that were more like sweets, and left a suicide note for something that hasn't happened yet, and as a result, has no meaning. Readers who like all things Japanese will be thrilled by what Jonelle has written; Gothic Lolita outfits, the idea of O-miai dating, snippets of valuable Japanese language and of course places of interest for the otaku.

In a worrying way, as with new movie, The Forest, this story also takes readers into the shadier side of depressed teenagers who can't take the pressures of living up to their parents ideals of studying, getting a well-paid job or marrying into money. Yumi is also going through this as her parents expect her to marry well, encouraging her to become familiar with a wealthy family. Here, stressed and suicidal teens turn to other people posing as online personas who offer help while the real killer is one of many who preys on them. I felt for Yumi and the fact that her friend was murdered, and found I could empathise with her character and what she was going through. For those who might see Japan as a haven for cuteness due to Pokémon, Hello Kitty and various manga images that are designed to keep you happy for hours, Japan, at least for its people is a fast-paced, demanding and at times draining place for those Japanese who live and work there. It is a place where many don't speak to others and live their own lives alone, this surprisingly for me anyway, is how many teenagers do live their lives, mainly alone and online mixing with those who aren't what they seem. It sounds weird, but I do have to say it, Yumi has problems, but she is lucky she has friends in the Sweet Lolitas.

I am not normally a fan of thrillers, but thrillers with a Japanese flavour are ones that are on my list of reading material as I enjoy reading about the Japanese culture and nuances that make it a thrilling read. Not only is it good to read the camaraderie that Yumi's friends share, it is her and Detective Nakamura's relationship that looks back at how she remembers him from when they were school kids. The murder has taken place in one of the most beautiful times of the year, spring when all the cherry blossoms are being viewed by eager visitors, drinking sake and eating lovely o-hagi. Detective Nakamura doesn't show it, but he likes to have Yumi around while he investigates the suicide case. Though it looks like a suicide pact, there are clues that point to something else. Detective Nakamura seems to need the help from Yumi as he isn't as knowledgeable on Japanese youth culture as she is and the clues all point to a supposed jisatsu, a suicide pact.

Jonelle really brings out the flavour of Japan with Nightshade and introduces us to people who we might actually meet on the street. She also knows how to create a killer who could threaten the very lives of those Yumi is friends with.

Other books by this author:

Fallen Angel
Painted Doll