Those who were in Japan in the winter of 1973-74 will recall the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War: many public baths conserved oil by operating every other day; the neon lights of Ginza were blacked out; and commodity shortages spurred panic buying of laundry detergent and toilet paper.

Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashino, Translated by Alexander O. Smith and Joseph Reeder.
560 pages
Minotaur Books, Fiction.

In Keigo Higashino’s “Under the Midnight Sun” — set around this time — a boy playing in an abandoned Osaka construction site finds a dead body. The victim, pawnbroker Yosuke Kirihara, had made a large bank withdrawal shortly before being stabbed in the heart, and the motive for the crime appears to be robbery. Kirihara left behind a widow, a young son named Ryo and Matsuura, an employee at his pawnshop. Not long afterward, Yukiho Karasawa, a primary school classmate of Ryo Kirihara, loses her mother in a suspicious gas-leak accident.

Two decades pass, and Japan develops into a high-tech economic superpower, in which criminals find lucrative new opportunities through software piracy, computer hacking, industrial espionage and insider trading.

Intermittently along this timeline, person or persons unknown have been leaving behind a trail of dead, disappearances and ruined lives. Through it all, a veteran Osaka police detective named Sasagaki — who failed to close the pawnbroker’s murder back in 1973 — keeps slogging on tenaciously, unraveling the tangled tendrils in his role as a modern-day version of Victor Hugo’ Inspector Javert.

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