There are now nine books in Keigo Higashino’s Detective Kaga series and a short story collection. A Death in Tokyo is the eighth in that series (originally published in 2011 as Kirin no Tsubasa – Wings of the Kirin and made into a film in 2012) and the third to receive an English translation (this translation by Giles Murray), the previous two being Malice (fourth in the series) and Newcomer (seventh in the series). Once again, Higashino delivers a gentle, twisty mystery and uses this to take readers particularly in and around the Tokyo district of Nihonbashi.
The book opens with the death of a man called Takeaki in the middle of the Nihonbashi Bridge, the oldest bridge in Tokyo and the official ‘Kilometre Zero’ for the city. Soon the police have a suspect but the man, Yashima, found with some of the victim’s belongings, was hit by a car while running from the police and is in a coma. Enter the Tokyo investigators, including Nihonbashi based detective Kyochiro Kaga and his cousin Tokyo Metropolitan Police homicide detective Shuhei Matsumiya. While the higher ups want to close the case with Yashima, Kaga sees elements that do not fit the narrative and uses his knowledge of the local area and shopkeepers to investigate further. He retraces Takeaki’s movements in the weeks leading up to the crime and opens out the investigation.
Despite the violence at its centre, A Death in Tokyo is another gentle procedural from Higashino. This is mainly due to the quiet, intuitive and patient approach of his main character. As demonstrated in Newcomer, Kaga uses his relationships and knowledge of the area to inform his investigations. He questions everything, refuses to jump to conclusions and will not rest until all of the pieces of the puzzle he is investigating fit. Together with a few leaps in logic that possibly only an investigator who readers are invested in could get away with.
Higashino, through Kaga and his investigations gives readers a strong sense of place – the streets, the houses and the temples of Tokyo. And by ranging his point of view chapters around not only the police but the wife of the main suspect and the family of the victim, Higashino also brings readers into the lives and attitudes of different strata of Tokyo society. So that A Death in Tokyo does what all good crime fiction does – uses the genre as a means for bringing readers deeply into a particular society and time.