Chaka—fighting writer, Japan aficionado and Cleveland native—is back in the land of the rising sun for Isaac Adamson's second hard-boiled mystery, Hokkaido Popsicle (HarperPerennial; 329 pages). Banished to the northern island's remote Hotel Kitty for punching a film director in the face, Chaka is left to analyze the innermost thoughts of his roommate, a "six-pound female Japanese bobcat of distinguished-merit parentage" before an elderly porter abruptly keels over in his room. That same night, Yoshimura ("Yoshi") Fukuzatsu, leader of Japan's most popular rock band, turns up dead in a run-down Tokyo love hotel, providing Adamson with ample opportunity to riff on every Japan cliché in the pop-culture canon.
Yoshi's death unleashes our cooler-than-cool journalist into a series of life-or-death situations that Chaka takes as nonchalantly as Roger Rabbit's pal Eddie Valiant took Toontown. And Adamson, as he did in his book Tokyo Suckerpunch, evokes an animated Tokyo-as-Toontown that is simultaneously vivid, vibrant, gaudy and in glorious decline. It's a big adventure, but Adamson's teen rag writer takes it all with a shrug.