Author: Kiego Higashino
Publishing Date: 31 January 2019
Translator: Giles Murray
Language: Japanese, English
Whenever I pick up a novel by Kiego Higashino I am sure I am in for a mind- blowing whodunit. Or rather ‘whydunit’. That’s the beauty of Higashino’s stories. The reader already knows what the mystery is: the real story is finding out why the crime was committed and how! Be it The Devotion of Suspect X or The Journey Under the Midnight Sun, both novels are unique in their own way. No two novels of Higashino are the same. You’ll always find something that will startle you. That’s why you are never wrong about any thriller written by Higashino. They never disappoint.
This week’s recommendation is Newcomer! It’s the eight installment in Higashino’s Detective Kaga series. Most of the novels in the series have not been translated into English yet but don’t worry. Newcomer can be read as a stand alone novel. The other novel in this series is Malice. Newcomer is a mix between a murder mystery and police procedural. One could even say that it’s similar to a Japanese version of Sherlock Holmes.
The Newcomer refers to Detective Kaga. He is newly transferred to Tokyo Police department and is immediately assigned a baffling murder case. A woman, living in the Nihonbashi district has been murdered. She was divorced and estranged from her only son. She has few friends and didn’t socialise much. So who killed her? To solve this murder, Detective Kaga has to interview all the people working in the neighborhood, all of whom have secrets and a motive to kill her. Moreover, he has to delve into the complicated life of the victim to look for a clue to help solve this mystery.
Newcomer is a character driven thriller. There are a lot of suspects in this mystery and each character is like a vignette. All of them have businesses in the Nihonbashi district and are related in some way or the other with the victim. Each character’s backstory is different and interesting and offer a different perspective to the mystery.
Detective Kaga mainly uses the process of elimination to uncover the truth. There are no forensic lab results or chasing the murderer in a dark alley. Kaga likes to talk to the suspects. He asks a lot of questions and comes back for more. Kaga is clever and charming. He knows how to draw people out has incredible observation. Kaga is not the stereotypical troubled detective one comes across in police procedurals.
Newcomer is not explicit or graphic in anyway. There are no autopsy reports, gory murder scenes, no forensic lab tests or chasing the murderer in a dark alley. The element of ‘sensationalism’ is downplayed. Those who like thrillers with a dark plot and some element of horror might not enjoy Newcomer. But this thriller is unique in many ways. Newcomer will keep you guessing and anticipating at every page. There is not a single dull moment in this thriller.
It was a refreshing change for me to read Newcomer. I liked its pace and characters. Detective Kaga is likable and one can’t help but marvel at Higashino’s skill in writing such a brilliant detective. Newcomer is a wonderful piece of detective fiction. I hope more of his work is translated into English soon.
I recommend Newcomer to readers who like mysteries with less gore, readers who like detective fiction and police procedural. I will also recommend readers to go for Higashino’s other novels like The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of A Saint from the Detective Galileo series.