Dark Alley, Oct 2004, 13.95, 358 pp.
Reporter Billy Chaka is in Osaka to accept an award from the Kinki Foundation for a story he wrote on Tetsuo Oyamada, who became a master puppeteer in the Bunraku Theater at fourteen years old. A bit surprised since the article was written almost a decade ago, Billy rationalizes why he should attend. He figures a free trip across the ocean is worth his time, but more important his magazine Youth in Asia could use the publicity though he admits he would rather stay home.
As the gala draws to a close, Tetsuo's father asks Billy to learn why Bunraku fired his son. Mumbling he will consider it, Billy talks with American Richard Gale as they ride the elevator in their hotel together. The next day, Bill learns that someone killed Gale. Unable to resist a homicide investigation and deciding to follow up on Mr. Oyamada's request, Billy begins making inquiries starting with visits to the puppet theaters where he begins to detect a connection between the play and the homicide not realizing that he alienated the local crime lords.
The fourth Chaka investigative tale is a fine story filled with amusing asides by the hero and a solid murder mystery. The story line is fun to follow as Billy gets into one mess after another especially when human females are involved. Though somewhat identical in plot line to the previous Chaka novels, fans will enjoy Billy's westernizing antics in Osaka's historical puppet theater.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner