Fallen Angel (An Only in Tokyo Mystery)
Author: Jonelle Patrick
Publisher: Bancroft and Greene
The #1 hostboy at Club Nova makes a handsome living, whispering sweet nothings in the ears of women who pay him a fortune for the privilege. But the party’s over when Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura is assigned to investigate the death of one of Hoshi’s customers, a young woman found dead after spending an evening with him.
While chasing down witnesses in Tokyo’s red light district, Kenji crosses paths with his childhood friend Yumi Hata, who is trying to rescue her best friend from a host club entanglement. Yumi agrees to slip behind closed doors – where no men are allowed – to help Kenji catch the predator who’s picking off Tokyo’s loneliest women, one by one. But in the glittering world where everyone has their price, they soon discover that everyone also has secrets they would do anything to protect.
There are two issues the reader has to focus on here in the second in the An Only in Tokyo Mystery series, Yumi Hata's upcoming marriage to Ichiro Matsuyama and her constant thoughts of old school friend, Detective Kenji Nakamura. While the previous novel centred on an online suicide ring, this starts with Kenji investigating the death of Sakura Endo (nicknamed "Cherry") who looks like she has had taken a tumble outside her apartment after spending some time at a host club with a friend. As a hostess herself, she is suspected by her landlady of being a Fuzoku-jo or sex worker after hours.
But what looks like an ordinary accident to the other officers at Kenji's department sounds to him more like murder once he starts to unravel the clues. His investigation continues off the record as he doesn't want to annoy or incur the wrath of his superiors, but something is not quite right about what happened to Cherry-san, as she is a young woman who everyone seemed to like and happened to be a good friend of Hoshi, the #1 hostboy at Club Nova.
One of the main draws for me was the host clubs featured in the novel. I had read a bit about them, but Jonelle eases the reader into the exciting, yet can be sordid world of being a host or hostess in a Japan which likes to keep these establishments hush-hush. For Yumi to be seen in one would tarnish her reputation as a soon to be married woman, marrying into a very wealthy and noble Japanese family. Her friend, Coco has an unhealthy interest in Hoshi and persuades a reluctant Yumi into coming to the host club with her and loaning her money she might never get back. She knows she is infatuated with him and has a way of wasting money on the same host merely to entertain him. By agreeing, Yumi risks being noticed by Ichiro, his friends or his family and being ruined as a result.
I got the impression the only reason Yumi was going through with the marriage was for her father who stands to lose out most if she decides to end the relationship. In fact, Yumi could have a few near misses, but if she stands by Coco or Kenji when she investigates the host club for clues as to the client who is killing-off hostesses, she might be in for more than she bargained for.
The mystery element is only one part of the story, Yumi's love life gets worse when she finds out Ichiro's still holding a candle for his ex-girlfriend, yet he doesn't like her friendship with Kenji - double-standards, definitely, though Yumi has the time to think about what she's going to do. Marrying into a family like Ichiro's means she would have to give up Kenji as a friend and possible lover.
Jonelle tells all about the highs and lows of being a host; on the one hand women will pay large sums of money for the handsome host of their choice, though they are also being manipulated at times.
Jonelle's insights are founded and full of interest, and even before I had read her acknowledgements section at the back, I could tell she had done her research into Japanese culture and pop-culture. Cat cafes are for those who can't have pets in their apartments and hot spring resorts for dogs, which is considered a form of pampering for any cuddly pooch. Her characters and the settings do a lot to ensure the continuity of the story and based on Nightshade alone, I have wanted to read all her novels without any disappointment. Jonelle also in each book takes us through Yumi's relationship with Ichiro, firstly with (Nightshade) her pairing with him, then (Fallen Angel) her imminent marriage to him. In the background is Ichiro's disapproving mother and unhappy detective Nakamura who is annoyed with Yumi as he believes she is marrying the wrong man.
Summary: It is so easy to be brought into Yumi's world and continue the lives of her friends and workmates just as each novel is a continuation of a piece of Japanese culture wonderfully realised by Jonelle.