The best Japanese authors have the ability to cocoon readers in worlds from which they have no desire to escape. Keigo Higashino is no different. His books, where murderers and police match wits with one another, are not necessarily the best detective novels ever written, not even the best in Japan, but he constructs worlds that are believable and all too comfortable.
But there’s something else, too, which appeals to Westerners. And that’s the clear distinction between men and women, which is something you find in most Japanese fiction. There’s a respect for tradition that has disappeared from most Western detective stories. There are no kick-arse girls beating men outweighing them by a hundred pounds. No aggressive feminists demanding equality, gaining respect for being men with vagina, or leading a platoon of gamma manlets who couldn’t knit their way of a cashmere sweater. All the things that turn most men and a good number of women off anything written after the late eighties (perhaps even earlier than that). There’s almost no feminist fantasy fulfilment in Japanese crime novels.
If your taste in crime fiction runs more in line with ‘bang-bang, stab-stab’, then this might bore you. But if you’re in the mood to be enveloped in a strange little conundrum set in a Japanese neighbourhood, and where motives are more important than murder, then this should suffice nicely.
Oh, and if you have a version that claims on the cover that Higashino is Japan’s Stieg Larsson, burn it, demand your money back, and purchase another edition.