Bob Moyer reviews something that is new to me: I’ve never read a Japanese police procedural. It sounds as though it’s worth a try.
Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer
THE FINAL CURTAIN: A Mystery (The Kyoichiro Kaga Series, Book 4). By Keigo Higashino. Minotaur. 400 pages. $29.
Don’t worry. It will all become clear.
The reader of Japanese police procedurals, even excellent ones like the one under consideration, encounters a significant problem — names. Besides a lot of bowing and countless cups of tea, an onslaught of syllables assaults the reader when there are a number of crimes and multiple aliases for the criminal, thus increasing the officer count.
Never fear, however; the author has provided a cast of characters, and ultimately focuses in on the lead detective in this book, and series — Kyoichiro Kaga. Allow the other names to flow by, and focus on him.
He is the anchor in any good detective story, the unorthodox mind that sees links, makes connections that others don’t. In this case, Kaga had retrieved his mother’s ashes from a province far from Tokyo 10 years prior to the present of the book. It was unusual, and unexpected — she had deserted the family when he was a child. Now, in the present, he is called in to consult on a murder in Tokyo. A woman from a distant town is found dead in a nondescript apartment, whose renter had disappeared. At the same time nearby, a homeless man is found burned to death in a roadside tent.
Kaga sees that they are all connected.
The ensuing narrative entails a lot of investigation that covers a lot of ground, but keeps the reader engaged. Nothing comes together until deep in the book when the author carefully reveals the details that all the clues have shed light upon, in the voices of the perpetrators. He does so in such a way, however, that doesn’t give the mystery away, but only makes it clearer. It is masterful writing that keeps us in suspense until The Final Curtain. Although this is the fourth book in a series, it works as a stand-alone. Brew yourself a cup of green tea, and settle back to be entertained.