by M.H. Sargent — highly recommended
This historical novel of Japanese-American honor and patriotism opens on March 30, 1942, with the evacuation of more than 250 Japanese-Americans living on Bainbridge Island, in Puget Sound, Washington. The process had been going smoothly when the Army discovers that a 21-year old Japanese-American fisherman, Matthew Kobata, is missing. During their search for Matthew, two Caucasian men are found murdered on the island. Seattle detective Elroy Johnstone has come to the island to investigate the murders, and evidence leads him to suspect Matthew may be involved. But he is one step behind as Matthew escapes on his fishing boat. With Matthew now emerging as the prime suspect in the murders, the detective’s investigation then takes him to Seattle where another murder has occurred. This time a Japanese-American.
Complicating matters, the coroner finds that both the Japanese-American and one of the Caucasian men have identical tattoos, both on the left ankle. But what do these tattoos mean? And who has killed these three men? Matthew? And if so, why? And most important, where is Matthew? Johnstone’s investigation will take him from Seattle’s Naval Air Station to the Manzanar Relocation Center in Owens Valley, California, and back to Bainbridge Island. And, although he doesn’t know it, the clock is ticking and a countdown is in place for an event that could result in the unthinkable taking place Toward Night’s End.
A beautiful blend of historical fiction, literary fiction and WWII mystery/thriller . . .
Toward Night’s End is one of those novels that is so well-written that I found it hard to believe it is available free. It would be a bargain at its list price of $2.99, and I’d have happily forked over for a hardbound version if that had been my only choice. Yet, I downloaded it for free, and it is free again today (but please verify before “buying” as Amazon’s prices are always subject to change without notice).
The novel, based on a true story, is set in the months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and around the forced internment of Japanese immigrants and their Japanese-American children and grandchildren, centering on the family of Matthew Kobata, who disappears in the hours before his family was ordered to leave their home on a Washington island and report for internment at Manzanar War Relocation Center in California.
My beautiful mom-by-marriage and her family were interred, forced from their home in Stockton, CA, to end up, eventually, in Arkansas. Her experience — and the experience of my aunts-by-marriage — piqued my interest in this novel, as much, if not more, than my enjoyment of mysteries.
Toward Night’s End is at once a work of literary fiction, a mystery, and a World War II novel. It’s beautifully written, and beautifully told, dwelling on the love of country both of those who chose to be Americans and those whose families have been Americans for more than two generations, as well as the betrayal of country.
M.H. Sargent is also the author of the CIA thriller MP-5 series Seven Days From Sunday, The Shot To Die For, Operation Spider Web, The Yemen Connection and Alliance of Evil.
Click to download Toward Night’s End