– by Stephon White

I’m here today with another review of Serial Box’s audio production Ninth Step Station. The Serial Box company is centered around providing serialized audio productions. The release schedule for Ninth Step Station is one audio tale per week. An excellent feature about Serial Box is that the stories are offered in both audio and text format. If you opt for the audio version you’re treated to an auditory experience with crisp narration and swanky sound effects.

This week’s entry in the story of Ninth Step Station is titled “The Deadly Defection”. The story is number five in a series that will ultimately span ten weekly entries. So that’s ten weeks of stories from the writer Malka Older. In week five the story takes a turn inward as local Tokyo cop Miyako Koreda and her partner U.S. peacekeeper Emma Higashi must solve an assassination gone awry.

Like a few of the previous stories, the main victim provides the opening perspective. In this case Charles Beaufort Yardley III is enjoying the conveniences of daily life; out and about. An assassination attempt leads the way to a gruesome scene where Charles fights to reach an antidote. It has a very cold war James Bond-like precision to it.

RELATED – Ninth Step Station Episode 5 Review: The Blackout Killer

This week Ninth Step Station shows the pressures of police work icing Miyako and Emma’s partnership at times. They are still distinctly from two different worlds. This episode shows Miyako’s skepticism towards Emma, who is a foreigner in Tokyo, Japan. The investigation focuses heavily on the motives and means of the attempted assassination of Charles. Running alongside the investigation is the unraveling story of a potential defector. Both stories tie into the uneasy relationship between U.S. and Japan law enforcement. Why would someone want Charles dead? Who is the defector, and can his claims be verified before another life is lost?

This week’s entry of Ninth Step Station shifted focus in an effective way. There were some side bits with Emma and Miyako having a sleepover, and it was an interesting tangent, as we see a bit more of the psychology behind each character. However, I will say that I found the opening to be a little jarring since the victim survives. I’m so used to Emma and Miyako arriving on a murder scene. It’s a minor thing. Overall, I felt the investigative work was solid. A bit more of the behind the scenes politics of police work get featured since the defector is jailed early on.

Episode 5 was a joy to listen to. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller does a fantastic job painting the vivid scenes unfolding in this post-war civilization. The writing gives the entry an air unlike the previous entries. I do enjoy the detours into this world’s crevices that the characters take — a quick jaunt to the rougher side of town can spice up the story. Sadly, that bit seemed to be lacking from this episode. Instead, we’re primarily centered within the precinct location. It’s not bland, but it is a lot more clinical and misses some world building present in past entries.

I will say that I am growing to enjoy the character growth and development in Ninth Step Station.

Grade: A-

+ Compelling narrative
+ Likable main characters
+ Solid narration by Emily Woo Zeller
+ Character development
– Indistinct villain

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

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