Friday, December 16, 2022

"A Death in Tokyo"


Nihonbashi Bridge, Tokyo. (source)
A beautiful historic bridge, built in 1911, with a huge freeway structure awkwardly built above it.

Keigo Higashino's most recent publication in English is the mystery novel A Death in Tokyo. Like his earlier novels (of which I have read several), it's cleverly and intricately plotted, though I found the pace a little slow. The very first scene of the novel is the death by stabbing of a man named Aoyagi, who runs out onto the bridge and dies beside the elaborate light post that's in the image above. 

As the police investigation proceeds, the bridge becomes more and more important, as are the two statues of mythical winged and horned beasts called Kirin. The center of the bridge, the detective mentions at one point, was “Kilometer zero for all the roads in Japan. This was people’s jumping-off point for journeys all over the country.” (p. 233)

I enjoyed the details of Tokyo landmarks and the Tokyo neighborhoods that were important in the novel. In an attempt to find the murderer, the two main police investigators must visit a number of shops, religious shrines, secondary schools, diners, bars, workshops, and other types of businesses. They question people at woodworking shops, bookstores, specialty paper sellers, and others. They interview the owners and service people in eating places, trying to reconstruct the last hours and the associates of the victim, Aoyagi. As they do so, they also try a number of different foods, which also help to produce the fascinating atmosphere of the story. 

Food, in fact, plays a big role here, as it does in just about every one of the previous novels that I have read by this famous author. As in many well-plotted detective novels, meals help the reader to have a sense of time passing and a sense of location. In this novel, I think we also learn a lot about what fairly ordinary people eat in Tokyo, and I find these details to contribute very much to the effectiveness of the narrative and creation of a vivid picture of the victim and the suspects. A few examples (just because I like them) —

“According to the member of the staff they spoke to, Aoyagi had been there at least twice. He couldn’t recall precisely what Aoyagi had ordered, but he remembered him because he said something complimentary about the food. Since they had the opportunity, Matsumiya and Kaga decided to eat lunch there themselves. Matsumiya had cold soba noodles. They were nicely al dente while the broth was delicious with a real depth of flavor.” (p. 124)

“Kaga split his disposable wooden chopsticks and picked up some salted fish guts. ‘Ooh, that’s good,’ he murmured, and took a swig of beer. … Their food was brought to the table. ‘Looks delicious,’ said Kaga, his eyes sparkling. Matsumiya used his chopsticks to help himself to a piece of lotus root deep-fried with pollock roe. The taste and texture were in perfect balance. … As they ordered chilled soba with dipping sauce, they showed her a photograph of Takeaki Aoyagi.” (p. 128-130)

At another restaurant, the policemen are anxious to interview some potential witnesses. The owner calls and says these witnesses have just sat down to eat:

“The two of them [the detectives] hurried off to the prix fixe restaurant. They caught the owner’s eye and nodded good evening. A group of four typical businessmen were drinking at a table for six. They had sashimi, a rolled Japanese-style omelet, and deep-fried chicken in front of them.” (p. 184)

One more meal:

“Their food was brought to the table. The croquettes were fragrant and went down easily with the beer. The deep-fried shrimp was crisp and smelled delicious. The chunks of meat in the beef stew melted in the mouth.” (p. 262)

While Higashino’s reputation and popularity aren’t as significant in the English-speaking world as they are in Asia, I think a lot of people were waiting eagerly for the publication of this newly-translated work. I was very happy to read it!

I was curious about the appearance of the bridge before the freeway was built over it. (source)

Review © 2022 mae sander


DVArtist said...

Another wonderful book review. Thank you so much. Have a lovely day.

eileeninmd said...

Great book review. I enjoy finding new mystery writers, Keigo Higashino would be a new one for me. Take care, enjoy your weekend!

My name is Erika. said...

I haven't read this other series by Higashino. Too bad this one is a little slow, but I'm going to add this series to my list. I'm almost done with the Inspector Galileo one once I read book 4- at least to date.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

Always good to time questioning at a restaurant at meal times. I'm not sure about cold soba noodles though.

Terrie said...

I keep meaning to pick up one of his mysteries and haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe next year. This sounds like a good one. Thanks for the visit.
Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

Cindy said...

Nice review! Have a great week!

Valerie-Jael said...

This sounds good, must see if I can get it on Kindle. Enjoy your weekend, Valerie

Valerie-Jael said...

I have it on my Kindle now! Valerie

Sherry's Pickings said...

that photo shows an interesting juxtaposition of building works. The japanese seem to eat very unique foods. I watch YouTuber Kimono mum who makes amazing things.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

There's something about the level of detail provided about the food that gives me confidence that the detectives will solve the case.

I'm always interested in reading books set in Japan, especially those that are written by Japanese authors.

Elza Reads said...

Hi Mae!

What a lovely review! I am definitely going to take a closer look. I've been to Tokyo once with my husband and he will be travelling there again in February. First time since Covid!

I hope you will enjoy your week of Christmas and blessings to you!

Elza Reads

JoAnn said...

This one is new to me, but sounds like a good one! Thanks for the review.

Literary Feline said...

This is one I really want to read. I love your focus on food in your book reviews. It's a unique and fun perspective.

shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I’m thinking of taking part in the Translated Fiction Challenge next year so I’ve made a note of this author, thank you!

Wishing you a great reading week and happy holidays!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Great idea to highlight the food in this novel. It made me hungry when I read it. I wanted to try all these things!