Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312600686
October 2, 2012, 336 pages
"I love you more than anything in the world. That's why your words were like a knife stabbing me in the heart.Yoshitaka Mashiba is a man who seems unworthy of being loved. Yes, he is handsome and rich and quite successful. But there is one thing he lacks and one thing that he will do whatever he must do to get. He wants a wife who will give him a child and when she can not give him what he wants, she will be cast aside. It seems he is already working on an alternative plan to get what he wants.
That's why you have to die too."
So, when he ends up dead, the victim of poisoning, his soon to be ex-wife is suspect number one. Except, she was hours away, visiting her parents when he died and has an excellent alibi. Lots of motive, but no opportunity. Of course, there is his girl friend. She was the last to see him, she found the body and she had a key to his house, the perfect opportunity. But since she is pregnant with his child, she seems to have no motive. What about his business partner? Everything seems good there, but did he perhaps have a hidden reason to kill his long time friend? Or is there someone from his past that might have reason to see him dead?
But if so, how did they do it?
Somehow, someone got the poison in that coffee cup without leaving any other clues...just maybe it is the perfect crime!
The wife seem the obvious choice, but for his own reasons Detective Kusanagi, back after The Devotion of Suspect X, would like to find the murderer elsewhere..because he is just a little smitten with the wife. But his new assistant, Detective Utsumi, is not so sure. And how better to overcome her boss's concerns than to enlist his old friend, the brilliant university professor, physicist Manabu Yukawa, to help them figure it out. The challenge of a perfect crime is right up his alley! But is it possible that even if he figures out how the crime was committed, he will not be able to prove it and the murderer will get away with it. Oh, horrors!
As much as I love a gruesome mystery..and I do..this book is something quite different. Think Sherlock Holmes (Dr. Yukawa) and Watson (Detective Kusanagi) with a dash of Agatha Christie and a classic locked room mystery, all set in modern Japan. And while it is a police procedural, except for one rather neat dead body, this is more about clever conversations, careful time lines and cups of tea and coffee being served than car chases or shoot-em outs.
I saw a review..I think in the NY Times.. that called this book 'elegant' and I understand why. The characters, even the suspects, are subtly drawn and except for the dead man, quite likable. I especially like the character of Utsumi, who is an excellent balance to her sometime hotheaded boss, Detective Kusanagi. They make a very effective team.
This is a smart book and pay attention if you want any chance of figuring out not only who-done-it, but how-done-it.
Higashino is a hugely popular author in Japan, the author of 16 books, and it is easy to understand why. We mystery lovers can only hope to soon see more of his books translated into English and published here in the near future.
My thanks to the publisher and Amazon Vine for providing a copy of this book for review.