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– by Stephon White

It’s been a few weeks now since I have been following the storytelling content produced by Serial Box. The company’s webpage description says it “delivers the best stories in audio and for reading. Switch between listening and reading with a single click.  And “Perfect for busy fans of ebooks, audiobooks, TV, and podcasts.” My experience thus far has been quite in line with that statement. With Serial Box I’ve discovered a world of quick digestible stories that I can read or listen to.

I’m now in week four of the review of Serial Box’s science fiction police procedural Ninth Step Station. The series is created by Malka Order. Ever since Ninth Step Station’s “pilot” episode, the story has focused on a local Tokyo cop by the name of Miyako Koreda and her new partner a U.S. peacekeeper Emma Higashi. Episode 4 is aptly titled “The Blackout Killer.” This week, the two officers, Miyako Koreda and Emma Higashi, investigate a sequence of killings that may be tied together by the unlikeliest of glitches.

RELATED – Ninth Step Station Episode 3 Review: The Fallen Executive

The story opens on a young psychiatrist, Akari Huang. She lives in the Sumida Ward in Tokyo. As a result of the economic strain, the city suffers several blackouts. The investigative aspect kicks in once Miyako and Emma are analyzing the crime scene of Akari Huang. When another body turns up dead, investigative work helps Miyako and Emma realize someone may be using the blackouts to cover their murders. This leads the investigation into older cases with a similar M.O., and a possible serial killer.

This entry of Ninth Step Station moves brisk. The two leads are barely away from the first scene a full day before they are investigating another related murder. The early casework seems to dead-end but gains traction when a trip into the past shines new light on a dead end case. Armed with new information and leads the duo start to focus on military veterans. The story gets really interesting here as the author begins to peel back the layer on Tokyo and China a bit more. What’s beneath may be just the shot in the dark they need to solve the murders.

I found myself switching back and forth between reading and listening to this entry in the Ninth Step Station. Overall it moves a bit brisker than in the past. The pace and the way the story unfolded were well done. Here, there were no conveniences like that drone operated by Emma mentioned in last week’s Ninth Step Station Episode 3 review. Everything happened quickly, but the small important moments were still there. There is also an interesting arc running throughout the entire story of Emma and Miyako warming to one another as more than foreigners and becoming friends. Specifically, in this episode, I enjoyed Emma’s quiet moments as she is mentored by Kensuke in the ways of leaving the old hauntings at your doorstep and sleeping in peace. Also, the killer is more sympathetic than any from Miyako’s and Emma’s previous police work.

In the end, it all comes together. It is an impressive tale of police work in a dystopian landscape where the luxurious and the loony are mashed right up beside each other. Sandwiched in between are Miyako and Emma trying to right the wrongs they can. Though I still think there could be better characterization, this week’s episode displayed nice character touches when it came to Emma. I do wish some of the other characters had moments to flourish. It’s a minor gripe, and thankfully the story hits the right investigative beats to finish out with a satisfying ending. There’s also further exploration into the seedier sides of town. This episode has me looking forward to seeing what case Miyako and Emma will solve next.

Grade: B

+ Good worldbuilding
+ An interesting lead
+ Top notch narration by Emily Woo Zeller
+ Briskly paced
– Some one-dimensional characters

To check out the series for yourself, go ahead and CLICK HERE!

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