A Drowning Detective
John Williams

A Drowning Detective

Sanada is a failed actor who now works as a Private Detective in Tokyo, bitter and cynical, coasting by on his wits and his fading good looks. Kyoko Sugawara is an ex-porn star, turned successful restaurant owner, who hires him to retrieve 10 Million Yen her husband stole from her to finance his remake of a banned 1970’s horror film, Vengeful Ghosts of Eros Island.

Sanada tracks the Director to a remote fishing port only to find two Yakuza goons hanging around the dock, who discourage him forcefully from attempting to cross to the sinister island. They tell him the shoot was cancelled and suggest that he leave town for his own good.

The Director is nowhere to be found but his things are still in his hotel room. Sanada begins to look for him but encounters resistance from everyone he meets and in short order he’s attacked by a motorbike gang, beaten up by the Yakuza, framed for assaulting a young girl and thrown into jail.

When the girl changes her story Sanada is released and then Kyoko phones to tell him that her husband has returned the money. The case appears closed, but before he leaves Sanada stumbles on a murder scene; a transvestite bar owner, a friend of the director, has been savagely beaten to death. Sanada leaves town quickly, hoping that the mess will not follow him back to Tokyo.

A few days pass and the bar owner’s murder is splashed all over national news. Kyoko calls him in a panic and then hires Sanada again to find her husband and bring him home. Sensing that he is walking into danger he takes the job, partly because he is falling for his client, though she’s way out of his league, and partly out of bruised pride.

Sanada returns to the port and sneaks into the director’s room where he finds a VHS tape of the original banned film. It is a bizarre cult movie from the 1970’s about businessmen dressing up as WW2 soldiers, reliving unpleasant sexual fantasies about sex slaves. The dots now join in disturbing ways: the island was once a floating brothel and a young history researcher was murdered for sticking her nose into its sordid history more than a decade ago. Sugawara has inadvertently stirred up old and very real ghosts.

Sanada swims out to the island and finds the director in terrible shape in an abandoned hotel. The Yakuza have been plying him with drink and drugs to fake a suicide. Just as the detective is about to swim back though, the goons turn up and catch him. He is badly beaten and left trussed up in one of the fridges in the hotel. Luckily for him one of the Paparazzi investigating the bar owner’s murder thinks Sanada is onto something important, follows him to the island and saves his skin.

Back in Tokyo again, recuperating in hospital, Sanada knows the case is not really closed at all. The Yakuza have been arrested for murder but the real criminal, Mr. Sobue who owns the island and whose family has run the town for generations is untouchable, protected by the police and his political connections. Even when Sanada visits the parents of the murdered student and finds evidence that links her murder to her research on the island’s past, he knows he has hit a dead end: Life is unjust and the powerful never take the rap.

Kyoko Sugawara has other plans though. She invites Mr. Sobue and his son to a meal in her restaurant and asks Sanada along too, to witness what she says is a business deal with Mr. Sobue. Sanada watches in horror as the meal and the deal unfold. Kyoko has cooked a very special dish, which contains the deadly poisonous toxins of the blowfish and the father and son eat an agonizing last supper and get their just deserts.

Kyoko disappears, taking a new identity in Thailand. Sanada is left with a terrible longing for her, but a renewed sense of his own dignity and a new friend in the Paparazzi who saved his life.

Book Details:

  • Author: John Williams
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John Williams

John Williams grew up in a coal mining region of South Wales, studied French and German Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, spent a year in Tunisia in the early 80’s, taught for two years in a Comprehensive school in North London, then moved to Japan in 1988. He has lived and worked in Japan ever since. In the early nineties he travelled frequently to Sri Lanka, where he made a documentary about human rights abuses. He set up his own Production Company in Tokyo in 1999 and wrote and directed several award-winning Japanese language feature films: Firefly Dreams (2001), Starfish H...
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