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In this modern-day police procedural by Tetsuya Honda, homicide investigators are flummoxed by the discovery of two male corpses wrapped in blue plastic tarpaulins in, and near, a pond in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward. When similar submerged bodies are found in Saitama, the pressure builds to track down what appears to be a serial killer, and Lt. Reiko Himekawa really has her work cut out for her.

The Silent Dead, by Tetsuya Honda, Translated by Giles Murray.
292 pages
Minotaur Books, Fiction.

Himekawa has a gift for clearing cases through sharp insights and shrewd deductions, a trait resented by older male colleagues who remain convinced that plodding teamwork is the only way to solve crimes. Her fellow cops are portrayed as sexist, devious, eccentric, self-serving and thoroughly dislikable, to the point of stretching the reader’s credulity.

Another problem concerns the large amount of space devoted to the detective’s private life, which threatens to intrude on the book’s main concern of crime and detection. Adoption by the translator, or editor, of overly colloquial English expressions serves as an unnecessary irritant.

Though this noir tale’s master criminal — introduced early in the narrative — stands out as dislikable in an obvious way that Japanese readers in particular might appreciate, Honda’s whodunit wins points for originality. He plays fair by obeying the established tenets of the mystery genre, without resorting to secret passageways, identical twins or a dog that doesn’t bark because it recognizes the perpetrator.

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