A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino Review

A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino balances tight plotting, and a character driven story that produces a gripping, entertaining mystery with a classical feel. Read my full review.

A Death in Tokyo Synopsis

Kyoichiro Kaga #3

In the latest from international bestselling author Keigo Higashino, Tokyo Police Detective Kaga is faced with a very public murder that doesn’t quite add up, a prime suspect unable to defend himself, and pressure from the highest levels for a quick solution.

In the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo an unusual statue of a Japanese mythic beast – a kirin – stands guard over the district from the classic Nihonbashi bridge. In the evening, a man who appears to be very drunk staggers onto the bridge and collapses right under the statue of the winged beast. The patrolman who sees this scene unfold, goes to rouse the man, only to discover that the man was not passed out, he was dead; that he was not drunk, he was stabbed in the chest. However, where he died was not where the crime was committed – the key to solving the crime is to find out where he was attacked and why he made such a super human effort to carry himself to the Nihonbashi Bridge. That same night, a young man named Yashima is injured in a car accident while attempting to flee from the police. Found on him is the wallet of the murdered man.

Tokyo Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga is assigned to the team investigating the murder – and must bring his skills to bear to uncover what actually happened that night on the Nihonbashi bridge. What, if any, connection is there between the murdered man and Yashima, the young man caught with his wallet? Kaga’s investigation takes him down dark roads and into the unknown past to uncover what really happened and why.

St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books (2022)

Categories Mystery & Detective

Keigo Higashino | Translator Giles Murray | Pub Date Dec 13, 2022 | ISBN 9781250767509 | 352 pages

Book Review

While this is the third book in the Kyoichiro Kaga series, readers need not have read the first two books to follow this plot. This novel works very well as a standalone, as the author provides the background necessary for readers to understand the roles and personalities of the main characters. The book also contains a helpful cast of characters list at the beginning that helps readers who may lack familiarity with Japanese names keep track of who is who in the story. 

When the book opens, a Tokyo police officer discovers a male stabbing victim slumped against the parapet of a bridge, a knife still protruding from his chest. An ambulance transports the victim, Takeaki Aoyagi, to a hospital where he dies a short time later. The police swing into action to investigate the murder. They quickly locate a suspect, but the man, Fuyuki Yashima, attempts to flee a police officer and a passing truck runs him down as he runs across a busy street. He arrives at a hospital with a serious head injury and is in a coma. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police assemble a team to investigate, seeking to find evidence to prove Yashima is the killer. Detectives Shuhei Matsumiya and Kyoichiro Kaga, coincidentally cousins, get assigned to work together as partners. During the investigation, they work to recreate the movements of the victim and suspect, interview the victim’s wife and family and the suspect’s girlfriend, Kaori Nakahara, to work out the motive for the attack and to learn how it played out. Kaga, the more experienced of the two, grows to doubt the guilt of Fuyuki Yashima, even though the police found the victim’s wallet and briefcase in his possession after the vehicle accident. While their superiors pressure the team for a fast resolution so they can close the case, Kaga and Matsumiya continue following Kaga’s theories and new lines of investigation since Kaga is adamant about discovering the truth about who stabbed Aoyagi. The detectives face a series of mysteries they must solve and bring together by the end of the story. 

While we don’t learn the specific time period, the existence of mobile phones and text messaging shows the story takes place in the present day. Higashino provides a lot of rich detail of homes, neighborhoods, businesses, and food across the course of the novel that helps paint a picture and allows us to imagine the setting with ease. This is a character-driven exploration of justice, family, and grief. While his supervisors seem willing to accept things as they appear on the surface, and his colleagues cannot connect the clues, Kaga takes matters into his own hands and uses his observation skills, intelligence, and determination to crack the mystery. He takes his profession seriously and is committed to seeing justice done for all concerned. This is easily one of the most enjoyable mystery stories I’ve read in a long while. It reminded me of some of the classic mysteries I’ve read in the past by authors like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Higashino’s writing is not only descriptive and vivid, but surprisingly poignant and moving. Kaga and Matsumiya are likeable, relatable, and realistic. I felt great sympathy for Kaori Nakahara, Fuyuki Yashima’s girlfriend. While I’m not sure that Higashino gives readers all the clues necessary to solve the whodunit before revealing the murder motive was something quite different from what we imagined, that’s okay, as it’s an entertaining story nonetheless. The author expertly pulls all the threads together to provide a satisfying conclusion. I’m a massive fan of mysteries and this book was a standout for me. I’m happy to discover a new (to me) author who clearly knows how to write a mystery well. 

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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