Author: Keigo Higashino
Genre: Detective fiction/Mystery
No. of Pages: 320
Publisher/Imprint: Minotaur Books
Published on: November 20, 2018
My Rating : ★★★★.5/5 (4.5)
Format in which I read: Kindle - Netgalley copy
Detective Kyoichiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department has just been transferred to a new precinct in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. Newly arrived, but with a great deal of experience, Kaga is promptly assigned to the team investigating the murder of a woman. But the more he investigates, the greater number of potential suspects emerges. It isn’t long before it seems nearly all the people living and working in the business district of Nihonbashi have a motive for murder. To prevent the murderer from eluding justice, Kaga must unravel all the secrets surrounding a complicated life. Buried somewhere in the woman’s past, in her family history, and the last few days of her life is the clue that will lead to the murderer.
Here’s the thing, I like mysteries.I like books with complex, confusing mysteries that challenge your brain and I like books with cold-blooded psychopaths too, but what I love are books that touch both your heart and brain. That’s where Keigo Higashino shines. Not only does he give you the technical, sometimes even scientific details of the crimes, but he also gives you a peek, a perspective into the psyche of the killer. The best part is, his perpetrators are not serial killers with nefarious schemes and bizarre reasons but are normal, everyday people like you and me. Most of the time, the murders are not even pre-meditated. You either end up feeling bad for the killer or learn something about the victim that gives a whole new outlook to the crime.I suppose that explains why I hunted down every single translated book of his available and devoured them without ado. 😀 The first book I read (and loved) was Malice, which was, incidentally, also a Kyoichiro Kaga mystery.
So, last year when I saw that Newcomer was coming out in 2018, I literally jumped for joy. And when Netgalley approved my review request? I swear, a part of my soul left my body and reached heaven…
Coming back to the book, Newcomer is written in typical Higashino style, focusing on the characters rather than the crime itself. I understand a lot of Asian crime literature has a reputation for being dark but Higashino’s crime fiction breaks that stereotype refreshingly.
He takes us to the heart of the story and the characters involved without indulging in the grisly details of the crime itself. He makes sure we get closure, of course, but along the way, we learn also something about human nature.
Newcomer is divided into 9 chapters, each one dedicated to a set of characters who are seemingly unconnected to the crime, but they all live in and around the area where the murder takes place. The book follows Kaga, who’s been recently transferred to Nihonbashi, while he goes around the area, investigating these people and uncovers little details about their everyday routine, their afflictions, their way of life, etc. His investigation method is almost Sherlockian in nature and I loved how even insignificant details started making sense when pieced together.I compare Kaga to Holmes but unlike Conan Doyle, Higashino loves his character and it shows; because in my opinion, Newcomer is more about Kaga than the crime itself. Not just about his detective prowess, but his compassionate approach to crime solving and how he looks at the big picture – at all the people involved, instead of just considering the crime as a puzzle to be solved or mere police duty.
Why do I think that? because the murder itself was quite a simple one. It isn’t hard to guess who the killer or what the motive might be if one followed the crumbs the author has dropped throughout the book. That isn’t the case in many of Higashino’s mysteries: he likes to keep us guessing until the end, either about the motive or how the crime was done. I didn’t sense much of that in this book. Hey, I’m not complaining because I loved every minute of it!
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the book, except for the use of archaic idioms like ‘bygones be bygones’ that popped up every now and then. Really, no one talks like that anymore! I swear I got flashbacks to my middle school English classes every time I saw one of those. I guess this is more of a note to the translator than the author – and maybe I’m being nit-picky here, but I feel little things like this are very avoidable and looking into it will definitely improve the readability and flow of the book as a whole. Other than that, the book was crisp and paced well enough to keep me turning the pages.One other thing that bothered me was the way Kaga disclosed details of the crime to the people he investigates. It is justified in the book but even then I don’t think that’s acceptable somehow?!
That brings me to this: WHY was Kaga demoted to a smaller precinct? because last I remember from Malice, he was kicking ass in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police department, had a sharp side-kick with whom he could discuss the case-related details. There’s an off-handed mention about a case that got him demoted but I’m bursting out of my skin to know all the details!!
Sigh, this is what happens when there are like 10 books in a series and only two get translated and those two are not even consecutive books! Am I gonna have to learn Japanese just to know what happened? 😦 So. Many. Questions. This book has left me yearning for more Kaga mysteries or just about any new Higashino book. Wouldn’t be amiss to say Kaga has cemented himself as one of my favourite fictional detectives. 🙂
My verdict? Newcomer is a must read if you like mysteries with smart, suave detectives, without much graphic crime sequences.
The book fairies at St. Martin’s Press have all my thanks and love for allowing me to read this book via Netgalley. :’)