Ending a gap of 13 years, this seventh installment in author Gō Ōsaka’s hardboiled suspense series once again features the killer known as “The Shrike.” The notorious fiend’s MO is to stab his victims with an eyeleteer in the back of the neck, killing them instantly with a precise hit to the medulla oblongata. He then leaves behind his marker: the feather of a shrike.
The central characters in this volume are Ryōta Ōsugi, a private eye who used to be a detective in Criminal Investigation Division I of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (MPD); Miki Kuraki (née Akeboshi), a National Police Agency internal affairs inspector who is in a relationship with Ōsugi; and Ryūnosuke Zanma, a former police-beat reporter who is now a member of the editorial board at one of Japan’s major national dailies. All three are survivors of an earlier string of “Shrike murders” linked with collusion between the police and high-government officials. The Shrike from those killings is long dead, and the copycat murderer who succeeded him, The Shrike II, has also met his demise at the hands of Ōsugi and Kuraki—though the grave where he is supposed to have been buried turns out to be empty.
The story begins with Zanma approaching old acquaintance Ōsugi for investigative assistance on two fronts. The first involves a request he has received from his former boss at the newspaper, a man named Tamaru, who has gone on to become editor-in-chief of a rightwing magazine. Tamaru wants Zanma to write a full exposé of the Shrike murders for his magazine. To facilitate this, he says he will deliver back to Zanma some critical taped evidence that disappeared from his possession during the original investigation. Zanma wants help determining who is pulling strings behind the scenes to expose the hidden truths after all this time.
The second case involves a high-ranking whistle blower named Ishijima at a mid-sized steel brokerage, who claims to have evidence of an illegal arms export scheme. Ōsugi begins tailing Ishijima and digging into his background. Then Kuraki is attacked on her way home, suffering a wound in her neck that appears to have been caused by an eyeleteer. A shrike feather is found adhering to her coat. Although Ōsugi rushes to her aid and she escapes with only a minor injury, the incident marks the return of—and represents a clear warning from—The Shrike. Is Shrike II still alive? Or is this yet another copycat killer taking up the legacy?
Tamaru is murdered on the day he is scheduled to meet with Zanma, and the taped evidence he promised to deliver disappears again. Also murdered is a lifelong friend of Ishijima, whom he had approached with his information—the editor-in-chief of an industry magazine. Both victims are found with shrike’s feathers on their bodies.
Although the two cases originally appeared unrelated, a man named Miejima, who was a person of interest in the earlier Shrike murders, emerges as a prime suspect involved in both. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, Kuraki goes to Miejima’s villa to question him, taking civilian detective Ōsugi along with her. It is a violation of procedure, but she hopes to be vindicated by nabbing her quarry. The gambit fails, however, and the case remains shrouded in darkness in an ending that leaves readers on the edges of their seats waiting for the next installment.