The New York Times Book Review
To dispute a common complaint: They are indeed writing confounding puzzle mysteries the way they used to. They just happen to be writing them in Japanese. And by "they," I mean Keigo Higashino, whose elegant whodunits featuring a physicist known as Detective Galileo are feats of classic ratiocination.
Howdunit, rather than whodunit, appears to be the central question of Edgar-finalist Higashino’s brilliant second mystery featuring Tokyo police detective Manabu Yukawa (after 2011’s The Devotion of Suspect X). After Yoshitaka Mashiba tells his wife, Ayane, that their short marriage is over because she hasn’t become pregnant, Ayane thinks about “the white powder hidden in a sealed plastic bag” and decides that her husband has to die, adding a cryptic “too.” When Ayane leaves town to tend to an ailing parent, her protégé, who’s also her husband’s mistress, stops by to find Mashiba dead of what turns out to be arsenic poisoning. How did the poison enter the victim’s system at a time when the obvious suspect, the scorned wife, was away? While readers of classic mysteries will be delighted with the elegant solution, the book will also appeal to fans of procedurals that carefully develop the relationships among the investigative team members. Agent: Anna Stein, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Narrator David Pittu delivers a flawless and riveting performance. Spellbinding.” AudioFile
“David Pittu, a stage-trained actor, uses a variety of textures, tones and tempos – and just the hint of a Japanese accent – to give each character a voice of his or her own.” The New York Times Book Review
“On audio, the work is enhanced by the narration of David Pittu, who is one of the best performers with a broad range and a long list of accomplishments…He is superbly talented, thinking through each character's voice and demeanor. He never trips over difficult Japanese words…The performance is without flaw.” Reviewing the Evidence
“Pittu reads the mystery, using blunt and confident tones to portray Mashiba and more quavering emotional inflections for Mita…Give this to listeners who enjoyed Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X.” Booklist
“David Pittu turns in a stellar reading, deftly transitioning between the principles and providing defining intonations for each. The plot is so intricate it will keep you guessing until the end.” The Star-Ledger
“Narrator David Pittu gives an impeccable performance, brushed with just a whisper of a foreign accent.” BookPage
A man is found poisoned to death in his home a few days after he announced to his wife his desire for them to separate. Tokyo detective Kusanagi and his partner begin to round up the suspects, with the jilted wife as the leading contender. Was it the girlfriend, the business associate, or a random act of violence? The solution eludes the investigators until physics professor Yukawa, known as Detective Galileo, is introduced to the case. But even his brilliant mind can't seem to connect all the pieces. VERDICT This intricate, sophisticated story will pique the interest of the most avid mystery readers, especially those who loved the author's acclaimed The Devotion of Suspect X. With this new book, Higashino has taken the art and craft of mystery writing to a new level of excellence. [See Prepub Alert, 7/12.]—Ron Samul, New London, CT
A Tokyo CEO's determination to run his marriage as a business is ended by a dose of arsenous acid. Information technology company president Yoshitaka Mashiba knows what he wants, and what he wants is a child. If his wife Ayane, a noted patchwork quilter, can't give him one after a year of marriage, he's prepared to divorce her and move on to some likelier candidate. But his plans are thwarted when someone poisons his coffee during a weekend when Ayane is conveniently away in Sapporo. Is the killer Hiromi Wakayama, the apprentice quilter whom Yoshitaka had taken as his mistress? She seems the last person in the world who'd poison her lover, but she was clearly the only person present when he died. Detective Kusanagi, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, searches in vain for other suspects, but the real question this claustrophobic mystery poses isn't whodunit but how it happened--how and when the poison got into Yoshitaka's coffee cup without leaving traces anywhere else, not even in Hiromi's cup. For better or worse, Kusanagi (The Devotion of Suspect X, 2011) finds that every time he and his junior colleagues eliminate each possible way some absent party could have doctored Yoshitaka's coffee, consulting physicist Manabu Yukawa, aka Detective Galileo, comes up with some alternative scenario that's even more preposterous. A retro puzzler that recalls Anthony Berkeley's classic The Poisoned Chocolates Case in its structure: a hyperextended short story whose complications keep unfolding and proliferating till it's grown to novel length.
Read an Excerpt
The pansies in the planter had flowered—a few small, bright blooms. The dry soil didn’t seem to have dimmed the color of the petals. Not particularly showy flowers, but they’re tough, Ayane thought, gazing out onto the veranda through the sliding glass door. I’ll have to water them when I get a chance.
“Have you heard a single word I’ve said?” Yoshitaka asked.
She turned around and smiled faintly. “Yes, everything. How could I not?”
“You might try answering more quickly, then.” Yoshitaka, lounging on the sofa, uncrossed and recrossed his long legs. In his frequent workouts, he took pains not to put on too much lower-body muscle—nothing that would prevent him from wearing the slim-cut dress pants he preferred.
“I suppose my mind must’ve wandered.”
“Oh? That’s not like you.” Her husband raised a single sculpted eyebrow.
“What you said was surprising, you know.”
“I find that hard to believe. You should be familiar with my life plan by now.”
“Familiar … Maybe so.”
“What are you trying to say?” Yoshitaka leaned back and stretched his arms out along the sofa top, ostentatious in his lack of concern. Ayane wondered if he was acting or if he truly was that nonchalant.
She took a breath and stared at his handsome features.
“Is it such a big deal to you?” she asked.
“Is what a big deal?”
Yoshitaka gave a derisive, wry little smile; he glanced away, then looked back at her. “You haven’t been listening to me at all, have you?”
“I have been listening,” she said with a glare she hoped he’d notice. “That’s why I’m asking.”
The smile faded from his lips. He nodded slowly. “It is a big deal. A very big deal. Essential, even. If we can’t have children, there’s no point to us being married. Romantic love between a man and a woman always fades with time. People live together in order to build a family. A man and woman get married and become husband and wife. Then they have children and become father and mother. Only then do they become life partners in the true sense of the word. You don’t agree?”
“I just don’t think that’s all marriage is.”
Yoshitaka shook his head. “I do. I believe it quite strongly and have no intention of changing my mind. Which is to say, I’ve no intention of continuing on like this if we can’t have children.”
Ayane pressed her fingers to her temples. She had a headache. She hadn’t seen this one coming. “Let me get this straight,” she said. “You don’t need a woman who can’t bear your children. So you’ll throw me out and switch to someone who can? That’s what you’re telling me?”
“No need to put it so harshly.”
“But that’s what you’re saying!”
Yoshitaka straightened. He hesitated, frowning slightly, before nodding again. “I suppose that from your perspective it would look that way, yes. You have to understand, I take my life plan very seriously. More seriously than anything else.”
Ayane’s lips curled upward, though smiling was the furthest thing from her mind. “You like telling people that, don’t you? How you take your life plan so seriously. It was one of the first things you said when we met.”
“What are you so upset about, Ayane? You have everything you ever wanted. If there’s something I’ve forgotten, just ask. I intend to do everything I can for you. So let’s just stop all this fussing, and start thinking about the future. Unless you see some other way forward?”
Ayane turned to face the wall. Her eyes fell on a meter-wide tapestry hanging there. It had taken her three months to make it; she remembered the material, special ordered direct from a manufacturer in England.
She didn’t need Yoshitaka to tell her how important children were. She had wanted them herself, desperately. How many times had she dreamed of sitting in a rocking chair, stitching a patchwork quilt, watching her belly grow larger with each passing day? But God, in his mischief, had made that impossible. So she had given up—it wasn’t like she’d had a choice—and resigned herself to living without. She had thought her husband would be okay with that.
“I know it might seem silly to you, but can I ask one question?”
Ayane faced him again, taking a deep breath. “What about your love for me? Whatever happened to that?”
Yoshitaka flinched, then gradually his smile returned. “My love for you hasn’t changed a bit,” he said. “I can assure you of that. I do still love you.”
That was a complete lie, as far as Ayane was concerned. But she smiled and said that was good. She wasn’t sure how else to respond.
“Let’s go.” Yoshitaka stood and headed for the door.
Ayane glanced at her dresser, thinking about the white powder hidden in a sealed plastic bag in the bottommost drawer on the right.
Guess I’ll be using that soon, she thought, the last glimmer of hope fading beneath the shadow inside her.
As she followed him out the door, she stared at Yoshitaka’s back, thinking, I love you more than anything else in this world. That’s why your words were like a knife stabbing me in the heart.
That’s why you have to die, too.
Copyright © 2008 by Keigo Higashino