Newcomer

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

I love crime fiction. Also love discovering new series leads to add to my must-read list along with Easy Rawlins, Dave Robicheaux, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch, and so many others. So I started this with great anticipation. Ostensibly, it is a paint-by-the-numbers murder mystery. But Detective Kyochiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department is an interesting character. I can't quite say this series has made it to my must-haves list, but I will be checking out further entries.
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I read a considerable amount of this Japanese mystery and was interested in its seemingly original gimmick.  However, the gimmick soon became tiresome and contrived, and there was an odd, hitchy rhythm to the narrative, perhaps a result of translation or maybe from the endless insertion of the gimmick itself.  Bailed out.  Life’s too short.  Sorry.
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Ok, the murderer didn't turn out to be the one I'd guessed & the motive isn't even remotely close to one of the reasons I thought of, but Higashino does a v. cool thing: he layers an otherwise boring synopsis + conclusion in a circle of sentimentality & culture. The book has compelling structure, intriguing narrative style but it feels like an 'okay' read rather than an 'awesome' one.

Still, it IS Higashino and that counts for a lot. 

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.
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I quite enjoyed this detective novel, but it's not going to be for everyone. It's a slow burn, there are a lot of characters to keep track of (there is a handy character list at the beginning of the book though), the dialog can be kind of cheesy (seriously, though, we're talking about a detective novel, they're  cheese factories!)....so, if any of these things bug you, this might not be your book. I personally love a good slow burn, the various minor characters all played a part in solving not only the murder but a handful of smaller mysteries, and the noir-ish dialog was delightful, in my opinion! I loved the main character, Detective Kyochiro Kaga, is a nice blend of Columbo, Poirot, and Miss Marple in his attention to detail and human behavior, and he seems like a really nice guy to boot. He is the newcomer of the title, being new to the precinct, and as he goes through the murder investigation, he also helps and makes friends with many of the residents of the area. I look forward to reading more of this series as they are translated. They are being translated haphazardly; this is the eighth book in the series, but it totally works as a stand alone.
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Newcomer was a detective mystery novel, which takes place in Japan. A very clever twist of events, convoluted trail of evidence, and many characters. I appreciated the sharp detective work, yet wasn't quite for me. Thank you NetGalley for the e-reader copy for my review. All opinions are my own.
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What could be a better way to enjoy the holiday break than by reading several new mystery stories? 

My favorite so far is NEWCOMER by Keigo Higashino, a new author to me, but a best-selling novelist in Japan and Asia. His earlier work, The Devotion of Suspect X was an Edgar Award finalist.  This more recent title, translated by Giles Murray, was a LibraryReads selection for November and can be read as a stand alone.  The main character in NEWCOMER is Detective Kyochiro Kaga, recently transferred to a new precinct in the Tokyo Police Department. In order to solve the murder of a recently divorced woman, Kaga interviews the victim's family and their associates. But the story begins with inquiries at a rice cracker shop in Tokyo's traditional shopping district of Nihonbashi, where the victim, another newcomer, had recently moved. Kaga, a Columbo-like figure, later also visits a traditional restaurant, plus stores selling china, clocks, pastries, and handicrafts. What makes this mystery especially memorable are the small mysteries within the larger one since Higashino cleverly develops the characters and their own secrets at each locale. In fact, over two dozen characters are included in a helpful cast list.  Although I initially picked-up this book and found the translation to be a bit jarring, particularly when Murray chooses phrases for dialogue like "got you" and "my old man," I kept reading – the story was compelling and allowed for ignoring those discordant notes. NEWCOMER received a starred review from Kirkus.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur books for the review copy.

I had never read any of Higashino's work before and have come to understand that he is a famous Japanese mystery writer. 

Well, not my cup of tea.  The detective kind of reminds me of Colombo, just appearing out of nowhere and putting all these pieces together, but on the whole, not an author I plan to indulge in again.
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Newcomer is the seventh Higashino novel I've read and it was the perfect book at the perfect moment.  Note that Higashino's novels are being translated into English in a seemingly haphazard fashion, so mystery readers compelled to read series in order must take a shot of their favorite beverage (or take any other action that works to calm one's nerves) and get over that compulsion.  Yes, Newcomer is book 8 in the Detective Kaga series, but it's truly a standalone in every way.  

Things you won't find and won't miss:   Kaga has no back-story or even current-story.  We know nothing about him other than the conclusions we draw from what he says to various characters and colleagues.  No tension with a know-it-all supervisor.  No unhappy divorce or custody battle.  No substance abuse problem. No decades-old buddy-ship with a partner.   He just does his job - solves the mystery of who killed the victim - and that's all folks.  Pure bliss if you read a lot of contemporary mystery novels and, on occasion, roll your eyes at the amount of space occupied by all of the foregoing and tap your fingers impatiently waiting for the author to return to the main event - the mystery.

Higashino introduces us to a couple of dozen characters, unrelated to one another and in different neighborhoods, and developing them sufficiently with a minimum of context.  (Thank goodness for the character list at the beginning.) He solved for the problem of having the detective spend half of the book traveling from one place and one witness to another. Kaga was simply in the next place - not magically, but efficiently. In other words, if you like your mysteries without any extra words or unrelated distractions, you'll be delighted.  

One minor disappointment, however. This is the first Higashino novel I've read which takes the form of a traditional whodunnit.  Part of what remains fresh and original about [book:The Devotion of Suspect X|8686068], [book:Salvation of a Saint|13506866], [book:Journey Under the Midnight Sun|19256975] et al.  is that the reader knows who killed the victim/s, but is compelled to solve the puzzle of how he/she pulled off both the crime/s and the lack of evidence revealing the criminal to the authorities.  Newcomer, on the other hand, represents a very good execution of the same plot as a ton of other mystery novels out there, a whodunnit, although Higashino's approach is several cuts above the majority of others.   

For most mystery readers, there's nothing disappointing about a well-done murder mystery and I recommend Newcomer highly. For Higashino fans, Newcomer is unlikely to be your favorite, but it's decidedly a must-read and a solid entrant.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing a free e-copy.
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Keigo Higsahino’s Newcomer is a police procedural featuring Detective Kyochiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department. Kaga has just been transferred to Nihonbashi area of Tokyo and he’s assigned to the murder case of a woman.

Newcomer

Newcomer is a slow burn novel. Residents of the Nihonbashi area are slowly introduced as individuals within their settings, and since this is a business district, we see people in the context of their employment.  In the first chapter, for example, we meet the three generations of one family who run a rice cracker shop. It’s been run by one generation or another for the past 50 years, and while the members of this family become dragged into the investigation (their part is to whether or not they can verify the alibi of a suspect), their tiny role in the murder investigation expands into family dynamics and the shifting role of the rice cracker business.

As the investigation begins, we know very little about the victim or the murder. These details are very gradually added as Detective Kaga makes his way through various businesses in the district. His investigation is hampered by the fact that everyone seems to have something to hide. The big question is whether or not these individuals are hiding personal problems or information relating to the murder.

The structure of Newcomer reminds me of TV series police procedurals in which the detectives glom onto one person at a time, one suspect per episode. Broadchurch (series 1) had this sort of structure, for example, and with each episode, you thought DI Alex Hardy and DS Ellie Miller had their killer–after all the actions of the suspects made them seem as guilty as hell. Newcomer is subtler and more focused on the sociological aspects of the Nihonbashi district, but it’s the same structure–minus the pressure. Kaga almost savours the case:

“That’s not how police investigations work. We have to sift through every little detail, asking ourselves why such and such a thing occurred. That will eventually lead us to the truth, even if all those individual things have no direct connection to one another.”

This is not an action-packed novel by any means and requires patience (and interest in Japanese life) to read. I was somewhat frustrated by knowing next to nothing about the murder which begins almost as a rumour which subsequently echoes around the district and then begins to touch the lives of its residents. The book, however, seems to be appreciated by fans of the author. I preferred Malice, but then police procedurals are not my favourite sub genre when it comes to crime

Review copy.
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Newcomer centers on a Tokyo neighborhood in which a murder is committed and on the detective who is newly assigned to that neighborhood  to investigate the murder.  Numerous characters are introduced as the detective roams around talking to possible suspects and or witnesses.  I found the pace of the story to be slow and meandering as the many threads of information are revealed and tied together.
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Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Newcomer is written in typical Higashino style, focusing on the characters rather than the crime itself. I understand a lot of Asian crime literature has a reputation for being dark but Higashino’s crime fiction breaks that stereotype refreshingly.
He takes us to the heart of the story and the characters involved without indulging in the grisly details of the crime itself. He makes sure we get closure, of course, but along the way, we learn also something about human nature.

Newcomer is divided into 9 chapters, each one dedicated to a set of characters who are seemingly unconnected to the crime, but they all live in and around the area where the murder takes place. The book follows Kaga, who’s been recently transferred to Nihonbashi, while he goes around the area, investigating these people and uncovers little details about their everyday routine, their afflictions, their way of life etc. His investigation method is almost Sherlockian in nature and I loved how even insignificant details started making sense when pieced together.

I compare Kaga to Holmes but unlike Conan Doyle, Higashino loves his character and it shows; because in my opinion, Newcomer is more about Kaga than the crime itself. Not just about his detective prowess, but his compassionate approach to crime solving and how he looks at the big picture – at all the people involved, instead of just considering the crime as a puzzle to be solved or mere police duty. Why do I think that? because the murder itself was quite a simple one. It isn’t hard to guess who the killer or the motive might be if one followed the crumbs the author has dropped throughout the book. That isn’t the case in many of Higashino’s mysteries: he likes to keep us guessing until the end, either about the motive or how the crime was done. I didn’t sense much of that in this book. Hey, I’m not complaining because I loved every minute of it!

There wasn't much I didn't like about the book except for the translation which, I thought could have been edited better. One other thing that bothered me was the way Kaga disclosed details of the crime to the people he investigates. It is justified in the book but even then I don’t think that’s acceptable somehow??

Overall, this was a solid read and Kaga has cemented himself as one of my favourite fictional detectives.
Highly recommend for  Higashino fans and others alike!

Thank you so much for enabling me to read this book!!
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Detective Kaga has been assigned to a new district in Tokyo and is learning the ropes in his new environment. When a woman is murdered the Tokyo homicide cops are called in, and Kaga acts as the local liaison.

Kaga uses his unerring instinct for evasions and half-truths to put together a string of relationships around the dead woman. He talks in turn to various local shopkeepers and follows the trail from one to the next, all the time building the picture of who this woman was and why she died. 

This book has a really satisfying plot where the author gives little away, but still lays a trail for the alert reader. Kaga is a really appealing protagonist, clever and subtle. This is another strong effort from Higashino.
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“Newcomer” by Keigo Higashino, with translation by Giles Murray, is number eight in the Kyoichiro Kaga series, but the book reads as a “stand alone,” and new readers can get up to speed immediately. 
A woman’s body was found in a Kodenmacho apartment. The person who discovered it was a friend who had dropped by for a visit. Based on the state of the body, death was estimated to have occurred within the previous two hours. Newly transferred Detective Kyoichiro Kaga is assigned to the team investigating the murder.
“Newcomer” is a police procedure with a unique and captivating perspective; the complex story is told from the point of view of the multiple suspects and witnesses as the police investigate, and not from the view of the investigators themselves. The plot is conversation driven, and focuses on the typical lives of the characters in their neighborhood and businesses. Readers get to know these characters well through their conversations, observations, concerns, actions, and reactions, when the police question them about the murder. A cast of characters is included for easy reference to help readers keep track of names and jobs, and the titles of chapters highlight the witnesses and the location of each enquiry. The investigation progresses at a deliberate but steady pace as more people encounter the police investigative team and ponder what is happening. 
“On the evening of June the tenth, a murder was committed. We haven’t yet identified the perpetrator. We are currently checking the alibis of everyone associated with the case.”
“So why’s the detective all over me?”
“Search me. Maybe cops just get off on hassling innocent people.”
 “Let’s not get melodramatic. It’s important for the investigation that we keep tabs on everybody.”
The focus of “Newcomer” is the “persons of interest” to the crime, and this gives readers a glimpse into to the Japanese culture. The lives of everyday people provide cultural references and distinctive settings that make this story unique. This is not a book that could take place somewhere else with just a few name changes. 
The pieces of the story gradually fall into place, and the last chapter is told from the point of view of the detective team, the more traditional setting for a police procedure story. Things finally come together with some surprising additions. 
I highly recommend “Newcomer.” I was captivated by the characters at the start, and by the end, I was frantically turning pages. I was given a copy of “Newcomer” by Keigo Higashino, St Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley, and I greatly enjoyed it.
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For some reason, books set in Japan are hit or miss with me. I've read a few that I've loved and a few that I just couldn't get into. I'm not all that familiar with Japanese culture, so some of the terminology goes over my head. And sometimes the characters have similar names and I find it confusing. 

This one is now my favorite, tied for first place with 1Q84. Both books are excellent although very different from each other. This book is a very straight-forward detective novel. 

This book could easily have been confusing -- there are many, many characters. If it had been structured differently I probably would have been lost. But the structure of this book is, in my opinion, absolutely genius. Each section is a different set of characters -- almost like short stories, but they all tie in to the same murder mystery.

I don't normally read series books out of order, but I had heard that you can read this one almost as a stand-alone, so that's what I did. I am SO excited to read more of this series.  I love discovering a new (new to me) detective series! I have not yet read any of the other books so I can't compare those, but I do think a person would be safe reading this one as a stand-alone book.

I can only compare this book to Agatha Christie's books. It was that good. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Net Galley for providing this book to me in exchange for an honest review.
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Detective Kaga is newly assigned to the Nihonbashi Precinct. His first case is investigating the strangulation of a 45 year old divorced woman. There was an ever-widening group of suspects and witnesses to question. So many that the author had to include a cast of characters at the beginning of the book. Kaga is kindly and unobtrusive, but also deceptively shrewd and perceptive. He’s sort of a cross between Colombo and Miss Marple. From the description of the book I wasn’t expecting a cosy mystery, but that’s what this book is.  Kaga not only solves the murder but ferrets out all of the secrets of the suspects and tweets their lives, leaving everyone except the murderer in a better place.  Cosy mysteries are not my favorite genre, but this one held my interest and I would read more by this author.  This book is part of a series but works as a standalone. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Japanese crime fiction is very different to its British and American counterparts, and this devious murder-mystery is definitely unconventional – and delightfully indulgent. The newcomer of the title is Sergeant Kaga, a compassionate and perceptive detective who’s recently arrived in Tokyo. While the lead policemen rush and bluster to solve the violent death of a female divorcee, Kaga quietly observes the dynamic interactions in the background. He explores the sidestreets of Tokyo’s historic quarter, uncovering the quiet secrets of the everyday folk who run its tourist boutiques, sandwich bars and artisan workshops. As Kaga discovers family disputes, minor crimes and intimate misdemeanours, so he zigzags towards identifying his true target: a killer who otherwise might walk away scot free.

This is an elegant and accomplished whodunit, intricately plotted and almost perfectly presented. The story ambles – apparently aimlessly – through the lives of the witnesses, bystanders and family, but there’s method in this meandering. The accumulating clues clearly indicate the guilty culprit, and justice is seen to be served… but that’s not really the point of this story.

Each chapter functions almost as a stand-alone short story, and each has its own satisfying resolution while contributing to the overall investigation. In keeping with old-fashioned fiction, the story progresses at a gentle pace; each layer adding to the intensity of the overall effect. It probably won’t please readers who prefer rapid-fire page-turners – this is an intellectual and emotional puzzle; a parable from the modern world but one which harks back to the conventions of golden age crime fiction.

It’s also a fascinating glimpse into another society; a world which hasn’t been entirely overwhelmed by western conventions, populated with distinct personalities and a convincing sense of place. Newcomer delivers splendid characterisation, an understated and intelligent protagonist, and a compelling plot. You can’t do much better than this.

9/10
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I really liked this book!  I wasn't familiar with the author or this series (I don't think it matters that this book is later in the series.  I never felt like I was missing anything)  The characters are interesting and complex.  I confess I confused some of them for awhile, not being familiar with Japanese names, but things fell into place fairly quickly.  I loved the character of Kaga!  I had to laugh so many times when people were exasperated to see him yet again (yes, he reminded me of Columbo)  His rather unkempt appearance and bumbling style made people underestimate him - but he had the last laugh.

It was fun to read all the red herrings throughout the mystery and for a change, I didn't figure out the ending before it was revealed like I often do.

Overall just an enjoyable read.
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First published in Japan in 2001; published in translation by Minotaur Books on November 20, 2018

A woman named Mineko is murdered, leaving behind an ex-husband and an estranged son. The victim was eating rice cakes before she died. Perhaps the person who brought her the box of rice cakes was her killer. The police, however, aren’t sure who brought them, so Detective Kaga begins to ask questions. Kaga is a newcomer, having only recently transferred to the precinct, but his intense curiosity will soon help him discover everything there is to know about the neighborhood.

Naho lives with her father and grandmother, who all work together in the family rice cake shop. The day after an insurance man named Takura picks up a hospitalization certificate from Naho’s grandmother, Kaga comes to the shop to inquire about the time of Takura’s visit. Could Takura have been the killer?

A young restaurant employee named Shuhei bought rice cakes from the shop at the direction of his boss, a man named Taiji. Could Taiji have been the killer? And what about the restaurant manager, Yoriko, who seems to have meddled with one of the cakes? Or Mineko’s friend, who promised to help Mineko get established after her divorce, but suddenly decided to get married and move to England? Are the friend and her fiancé suspects? And why did Mineko move to the neighborhood where she was killed without making contact with her nearby son?

Kaga is Tokyo’s Columbo, trying to add up all the loose ends, make sense of inconsistencies, and annoy witnesses by repeatedly turning up to pose new questions. As he prowls around the neighborhood where the crime was committed, his investigation takes him to a home goods store where Mineko ordered chopsticks, a cutlery shop where she bought expensive scissors, a clock shop where an owner claims to have seen Mineko while walking the family dog, a pastry shop where Mineko was a regular customer, and a handicrafts store where someone bought a top.

Kaga uncovers secrets and lies everywhere he goes, generally involving domestic drama, although the secrets aren’t necessarily relevant to the murder. In his own way, he helps people overcome the burdens of the secrets they conceal. Kaga thinks that finding ways to comfort people in their daily struggles is part of a detective’s job (an attitude that may be unique to Japanese police detectives, or perhaps to fictional Japanese police detectives).

I loved Newcomer’s episodic structure and its atmospheric depiction of a “premodern” Tokyo neighborhood. The story portrays women who are torn between traditional roles and a desire to lead interesting lives in a male-dominated workplace. In a number of the linked episodes, Keigo Higashino also illustrates the family tensions that arise as younger generations depart from Japanese traditions to pursue their own lifestyles.

But this isn’t a social justice novel or a detailed exploration of changing norms in Japanese society. Newcomer is an entertaining version of a Detective Columbo story that weaves Japanese culture in a Tokyo neighborhood into a murder mystery. Kaga is an entertaining character and his self-effacing interaction with a jealous colleague makes him all the more likeable. The plot is equally entertaining. Newcomer is the kind of police procedural that lets the reader follow a chain of evidence while wondering where it will all lead.

I became a fan of Higashino when I read The Devotion of Suspect X. Newcomer cements my fandom. The novel should appeal to fans of crime fiction generally, as well as being a treat for fans of Japanese crime novels.

RECOMMENDED
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International bestseller Keigo Higashino returns with his latest mindbender, Newcomer, as newly transferred Tokyo Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga is assigned to a baffling murder.

In his masterpiece Life: A User’s Manual, Georges Perec takes his reader room by room to discover the lives of people in a single apartment building. Imagine a variation of this pattern, introduce a Columbo-like detective, add a hint of the game Clue/Cluedo, and you have Newcomer in a nutshell.

VERDICT: Another cleverly plotted, beautifully structured mystery by the Japanese master of the genre. I highly recommend Newcomer for all lovers of smart stories, and readers interested in diverse and international literature.

My full review is on Criminal Element: https://www.criminalelement.com/review-newcomer-by-keigo-higashino/
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This was a mystery, but also gave insight into Tokyo's street scene.  I enjoyed it and found myself wondering what would happen next as I read.
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