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A DEATH IN TOKYO by Keigo Higashino: Book Review

As a young policeman watches, a man staggers onto the famed Nihongashi Bridge in Tokyo.  The officer assumes the man is drunk, although he thinks it’s a bit early in the evening for such total inebriation.  The policeman looks away for a minute, and when he looks back the man is leaning below the kirin, the pair of statues representing mythical Chinese beasts.  Disgusted, the officer approaches the man to get him to move along when he realizes that the man isn’t drunk but dead, with a knife protruding from his shirtfront.

When additional police arrive they realize that the victim had actually been knifed a few streets away and had somehow made his way to the Nihongashi before dying.  And because of the crowds surrounding the bridge, they believe the attacker could have easily blended with them and made his escape.  Nevertheless, a short time later a suspect is apprehended with the victim’s wallet in his possession.

The murdered man, Takeaki Aoyagi, was the manager of production at a factory that made building components, and the suspect, Fuyuki Yashima, had worked there before being let go several months earlier.  Since then he’d been unemployed and growing increasingly despondent at his situation.  Could that have been the reason for his attack on his former employer?

A Death in Tokyo centers on the families of the victim and his alleged assailant.  The Aoyagis, consisting of Takeaki’s widow and two teenage children, know almost nothing about what Takeaki does at work and why he would have been in the area of the bridge at that time of night.

Fuyuki Yashima’s partner, Kaori Nakahara, is equally bewildered by the thought that her lover could have killed the man who had been his manager at Kaneseki Metals, and she insists over and over again that Fuyuki “would never do anything like that to anybody.”

Kyoichiro Kaga is one of the detectives assigned to the case.  Although it seems obvious to others on the force that the young man followed his former employer and knifed him in a fit of rage or hopelessness over losing his job, Kaga isn’t so sure.  His style of investigation is very different from that of the others on the force, and he returns again and again to the area in which Aoyagi was found.

He revisits the bridge, a Japanese stationery store that specializes in origami paper, and a small cafe, gathering clues at each site.  In this way he becomes more and more convinced that there’s more to this murder than appears on the surface.

“It’s no use to anybody to close a case in such a half-assed way,” he tells his colleagues.   “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to the truth.”  And he discovers that the truth can be found in a tragic episode that happened some years before, one that involved neither Takeaki Aoyagi or Fuyuki Yashima directly but nevertheless led directly to the tragedy on Nihongashi Bridge.

Keigo Higashino is Japan’s best-selling novelist.  You can read about him at various sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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