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‘Newcomer’: Cop pounds the pavement in Tokyo shitamachi detective mystery

by Mark Schreiber

Contributing Writer

Although many police procedural mystery novels may appear to reflect realism, most authors only touch on a fraction of the time and shoe leather typically devoted to a real investigation. In “Newcomer,” author Keigo Higashino challenges the conventional wisdom, adopting an approach that underscores his skills as a master of the genre.

Newcomer, by Keigo Higashino, Translated by Giles Murray.
320 pages
MINOTAUR BOOKS, Mystery.

The mystery involves the murder of Mineko Mitsui, a 45-year-old divorcee who was seen in a park near her home a short time before her death. Various items found in her small apartment are traced to several traditional shops and a restaurant in the nearby shitamachi (old downtown) neighborhood in Nihonbashi.

“I’m afraid I’m not here to buy rice crackers. I’m actually from the local police station,” is how detective Kyoichiro Kaga apologetically introduces himself in Chapter 1. New to the local police station, Kaga’s investigative style is too low key to dominate the narrative. He makes his presence felt by hunting for motives, methods and money, without engaging in intimidation or deception.

As each item of merchandise is followed up as a part of the investigator’s legwork, accounts of the shops’ owners, their family members and employees are presented, teasing the reader to wonder, is this character a suspect, or a person of interest with something to hide, or something else entirely?

With kudos to Giles Murray’s readable translation, we get a story that’s original, exotic yet fully abides by the rules of the mystery genre. This book comes highly recommended.