“Newcomer”

“Newcomer” by Keigo Higashino, with translation by Giles Murray, is number eight in the Kyoichiro Kaga series, but the book reads as a “stand alone,” and new readers can get up to speed immediately.

A woman’s body was found in a Kodenmacho apartment. The person who discovered it was a friend who had dropped by for a visit. Based on the state of the body, death was estimated to have occurred within the previous two hours. Newly transferred Detective Kyoichiro Kaga is assigned to the team investigating the murder.

“Newcomer” is a police procedure with a unique and captivating perspective; the complex story is told from the point of view of the multiple suspects and witnesses as the police investigate, and not from the view of the investigators themselves. The plot is conversation driven, and focuses on the typical lives of the characters in their neighborhood and businesses. Readers get to know these characters well through their conversations, observations, concerns, actions, and reactions, when the police question them about the murder. A cast of characters is included for easy reference to help readers keep track of names and jobs, and the titles of chapters highlight the witnesses and the location of each inquiry. The investigation progresses at a deliberate but steady pace as more people encounter the police investigative team and ponder what is happening.

“On the evening of June the tenth, a murder was committed. We haven’t yet identified the perpetrator. We are currently checking the alibis of everyone associated with the case.”
“So why’s the detective all over me?”
“Search me. Maybe cops just get off on hassling innocent people.”
 “Let’s not get melodramatic. It’s important for the investigation that we keep tabs on everybody.”

The focus of “Newcomer” is the “persons of interest” to the crime, and this gives readers a glimpse into to the Japanese culture. The lives of everyday people provide cultural references and distinctive settings that make this story unique. This is not a book that could take place somewhere else with just a few name changes.

The pieces of the story gradually fall into place, and the last chapter is told from the point of view of the detective team, the more traditional setting for a police procedure story. Things finally come together with some surprising additions.

I highly recommend “Newcomer.” I was captivated by the characters at the start, and by the end, I was frantically turning pages. I was given a copy of “Newcomer” by Keigo Higashino, St Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books,and NetGalley, and I greatly enjoyed it.