I love reading immersive novels that teach me something new about the craft of writing. Along with being a swift and entertaining read, Newcomer by international bestseller Keigo Higashino is also an example of an expertly-crafted mystery.
Set in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo, the story follows the eccentric Detective Kyochiro Kaga as he interviews various locals who are connected to the murder victim, a forty-something single woman. The reader is taken through a series of minor mysteries to arrive at the answer to the main puzzle. Clues and red herrings are deftly sprinkled along the way, with extra points for an unusual murder weapon.
What’s different about this character-driven whodunit, originally published in 2001 and translated by Giles Murray in 2018, is that all of the suspects’ discovered stories matter to the outcome of the primary mystery. They all are connected to the murdered woman in a meaningful way. We learn about their secrets through Detective Kaga’s investigation, as well as the complicated life of the victim, and we’re invested in all of them. Themes of family dysfunction, traditional values vs. modern lifestyles, and reckoning with the past are cleverly woven throughout the vignettes. Newcomer is very accessible, not too gritty, not too cozy.