Cover Image: The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives

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Member Reviews

The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a charmingly diverting example of the Japanese food story genre by Hisashi Kashiwai. Due out 13th Feb 2024 from Penguin Random House on their Putnam imprint, it's 208 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

This is such a comforting, nostalgic, and sweetly uplifting collection of related stories. Originally published in Japanese in 2013, the translation work by Jesse Kirkwood is seamless and manages to flow very well in English without losing the indelible Japanese cultural and food-related nuances.

The stories are related by a common thread: seekers find the restaurant run by a father and daughter duo who specialize in recreating meals for their clients from the clients' own memories and recollections.

Despite the lack of danger or dramatic tension, the stories are moving and told effectively. Food manga and food-centered narrative is a popular subgenre in Japan, and this is a wonderful collection.

Four and a half stars. Utterly charming.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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This is like a Ghibli movie mixed with Grantchester. Chapter-long cases are filled with warm people who are not just looking for food but for connections to their past. The main characters are a lovable father and daughter and they work in tandem to uncover food recipes that people remember from an important part of their lives. There are no murders or bad guys, just a lot of interesting tidbits about Japanese culinary history. A word of warning, though, do not read this book hungry. If you do, make sure you have your local Japanese restaurant on speed dial.

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I have to admit it was the cat on the cover of this book that caught my attention. I was surprised to find out it was translated from Japanese and was a bit skeptical when I started reading the book. The character's names were confusing and I had a hard time remembering who was who. But the further I got into the book, the more I found it quite enjoyable. Nagare and his daughter Koishi are the proprietors of The Kamogawa Diner. This is not an ordinary restaurant and Nagare and Koishi are not ordinary chefs. They are food detectives and help their clients by recreating dishes and recipes they remember from their past. The cat, by the way, was named Drowsy and made an appearance in every chapter. This was a strange but interesting novel. Thanks to the author, Hisashi Kashiwai, PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, and NetGalley for this quirky read. I received a complimentary copy of this ebook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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I found The Kamogawa Food Detectives to be a fun read, although I did get a little bored here and there. It did very much remind me of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, which has been mentioned in several reviews. A woman (Koishi) and her father Nagare run a small and nondescript restaurant in Kyoto. They are known as "food detectives" in that they are able to create dishes based off of the memories of their customers. The descriptions of the food were very detailed (and made me so hungry) and I learned a bit about Japanese customs which I enjoyed. It was a pretty quiet and comforting read.

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Summary

Nagare Kamogawa and his daughter, Koishi, run the Kamogawa Diner and Food Detective Agency in Kyoto. The restaurant isn’t on any apps or maps and there’s no sign outside. People find them by word of mouth or through a cryptic ad in a gourmet magazine. Nagare was once a police detective, but now he dedicates his life to food. Some people come to him for a good meal, and some people come to him because they want him to find the recipe for a favorite meal from their past.

Each chapter represents a new food investigation for a new client. There’s Hideshi who wants to taste the nabeyaki-udon his wife made, but she’s been dead for 15 years, and he never paid attention to how she prepared it. Tomomi wants to once again taste the mackerel sushi a neighbor made for him as a child. Each customer comes and tells Koishi all the details that they can remember about the food, then Nagare spends two weeks putting his detective skills to the test and when the customer returns he prepares them the meal they sought.

My Thoughts

This was one of the first NetGalley books I requested last August when I first learned about NetGalley. I saw the cover and title and knew I needed to read it. Because I skipped the book summary, I admit I was expecting a traditional murder mystery set in a Japanese restaurant. Instead, I found a detective who tracks down recipes. Apparently, you can judge a book by its cover, because this book is delightful!

We never really learn much about the characters. We know that Nagare is a retired detective who turned to food after his wife died five years earlier, and that he is still devoted to his wife. Koishi is proud of her father and resents people who don’t recognize his skills.

The details in this story focus on the food - the ingredients, the flavors, the smells, even the plating. We learn where the ingredients are sourced and how the same food is prepared differently in different regions of the country. We learn about how subtle changes in preparation affect the food. We hear about the different teas served to enhance the meals. The descriptions were very evocative.

Each time a plate of food arrived, the author named the style of the dish. Not being familiar with them, I kept a phone nearby, so I could google them. With the actual pictures of the styles, it helped me create a mental picture of the scene.

The atmosphere also comes from the depictions of Kyoto, and from the wardrobes of the restaurant’s guests. I have a sketchy image of what the Kamogawa restaurant looks like, but I can very much visualize the individual guests.

I loved the portrayal of Japanese food culture in this book. It gives a sense of the customs and rituals.

There is a sense of the magical in this book. Kamogawa called it fate that the people who needed his services were able to track him down. He always seemed to know just what the customer needed to eat on their first visit.

You might enjoy this book if you -

are a foodie

are interested in Japanese culture

are open to non-traditional mysteries

You might want to skip this book if you -

want traditional murder mysteries

want to bond emotionally with the characters

get bored by detailed descriptions of food

I received a free eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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I devoured this charming book. The premise is irresistible: a father-daughter duo — who are also chef-detectives — recreate meaningful dishes from their customers' pasts. The food descriptions are luscious; I was delightfully hungry the whole time I was reading. I also enjoyed the structure with each chapter introducing us to a different customer and their story. Sometimes you just want to be immersed in a cozy to spend time with likable people. This book satisfies that craving.

I'll be featuring The Kamogawa Food Detectives on my podcast The Library of Lost Time on 16 February 2024 — http://strongsenseofplace.com/lolts/lolt-2024-02-16/

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an advance copy of this manuscript in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a delightful book! Do you like food and mysteries? This is the book for you. The Kamogawa Diner is a special place run by a father-daughter duo. the mysteries are old recipes, people, etc. A heartwarming book about many customers and their stories. Please read!

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Whoever said "time heals all wounds" had never had a good home-cooked meal.

The only thing that actively competes with my love of books is my love for tasty food. A book centered around foodie mysteries is my idea of a good time. This was so cute and cozy. The detailed descriptions of Japanese cuisine sent me to another realm. The author cared for and spent time describing these complex and tasty dishes.

The "mystery" aspect didn't quite work out for me. I expected more of the father and daughter working together to solve the mystery dishes. Instead, the client described the dish they were thinking of/wanted and immediately cut to the client tasting the food. This was disappointing, but more a case of I had wrong expectations.

I grew up in a family where food is an expression of love. To see that in a novel was heartwarming and gave me genuine joy. The clients coming to terms with old memories or unlocking new ones was touching.

Minus a star because I wanted more cat content.

Thank you, NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, for the advance copy. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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My thanks for the ARC goes to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons.
I'm voluntarily leaving a review.

Genre: Cozy Mystery, Food Mystery, Asian Literature, Japanese Literature

THE KAMOGAWA FOOD DETECTIVES is a bestselling series in Japan, and I read a translated copy.

This book will appeal to people who have traveled to Japan, love Japanese cuisine, and who enjoy low stakes mysteries. Because it's Japanese, it doesn't have the same story structure as American novels. Nope, not at all.

Here's the basic structure:
- What? You found our shop when we only have a one line advertisement?
- So, you want this same dish that you ate in your past...
- Two weeks later: You get to eat your nostalgic meal, and you're very happy.
- Dad explains why that meal was important to that person.

I actually enjoyed this book. The relaxed pace was a great break from high-pressure stories. And I happen to love food, so that was fun too.

It made me wonder what dish I would hire them to make for me...

This book is perfect. Yep—it's not going to be like other books you read this year, but that's not why you're going to pick it up. You're going to love the deep dive into Japanese literature and the sublime use of mystery in cooking.

Happy reading!

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Hidden on a back street in Kyoto, the Kamogawa Diner serves up extravagant feasts but also doubles as a detective agency. Koishi Kamogawa and her father, Nagare, investigate and recreate treasured memorable meals for their clients.

This is a charming, low-stakes mystery with comforting vignettes and delicious descriptions of the dishes prepared. It does feel a bit repetitive as each case follows the same format and ends with a description of the cafe's resident cat, so perhaps best read as a palate cleanser or as a sentimental reminder of beloved Japanese foods.

Thank you so much to Putnam and Netgalley for this book to review!

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The Kamogawa Food Detectives is about Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare who run a diner and also a food investigation business. If you are looking for a recipe for a dish that you've never stopped thinking about, they're the place to go.
I loved that instead of it being one long novel, it was more like a series of short stories with different customers searching for recipes from the past. I also really enjoyed that Negare understands what his customers are really looking for instead of just a recipe.

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Pleasant, albeit formulaic, stories about tracking down distinct foods of mostly nostalgic value for people. The book reminded me a bit of Midnight Diner, but didn't have that show's sense of humor. The food was described well, but the stakes were so low and the end result never in doubt.

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The Kamogawa Food detectives is best described as a cozy food pseudomystery. While I can appreciate what it’s trying to accomplish, the story fell flat for me. The book is divided up into six “cases” which were all quite repetitive.
1. Client locates the Kamogawa Diner and remarks about how difficult it was to find from that one line advert in a magazine.
2. Client is served food from a set menu, which is of course, highly delicious.
3. Client is brought into the back room to describe the meal they would like Nagare to recreate for them. The description is always hopelessly vague and dreamlike.
4. Nagare mentions that this will be a tough case to crack, and Drowsy the cat tries to rub up on a customer.
5. Nagare recreates the dish flawlessly and the client is pleased.

Lather, rinse, repeat for 200 pages. I enjoyed the concept, but I was tired of rereading the same story over and over again. Thank you for NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I was disappointed by this one. I was expecting a cozy mystery, but instead got shallow, tell-not-show stories. As charming as the main characters were, I really wish I got to follow on their journey of uncovering these mysteries instead of reading about it all at once at the grand reveal.

I also found the sub=plot subpar. It didn't add anything to the characters' personalities or development.

Overall, I would recommend this book is someone needs a palette cleanser book or is in a slump, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite book.

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Thank you NetGalley and Putnam for providing an ebook for review consideration.
All opinions are my own.

"The Kamogawa Diner" is a charming Japanese bestseller now translated to English. Each chapter reads like its own short story, with a soon-familiar structure: we meet a character making their way to the diner, follow them through an initial meal and making their request for the recreation of a meal they’ve had before and long for, then eventually see them enjoy that meal and hear how it was achieved.

As someone new to the linked short story structure, I found it repetitive at first, but it quickly established a cozy atmosphere that drew me in.

In each chapter I was pulled through the story by wanting to hear the steps and consideration Nagare went through to solve the mystery of the client’s food and to help them have that nostalgic dish again. This book has piqued my interest in Japanese fiction, and I’ve already started to add more to my TBR.

The only thing I was left longing for in this book was a deeper understanding of the main characters. Despite the current approach helping me feeling like a distant observer at the diner, I am left hoping for more insight into Nagare, Koishi, and maybe even Tae in future installments.

I’ll be recommending this book to:
* Nostalgic Foodies: For those who I know would have their own request of Nagare at the Kamogawa Diner.
* My Cozy Gamer Friends: If you enjoy the comforting atmosphere of cozy games where you're tasked with solving challenges for new acquaintances, you'll feel right at home.

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A pleasant concept, but without the emotional impact of the oft-compared Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Still, I enjoyed discovering the reasons food is meaningful to various visitors. It was a great book to tuck into alongside my dinner for a few evenings. I actually found the repetitions pleasing, and the descriptions of food were mouth-watering. And the relationship of Nagare and his wife were by far my favorite part.

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This book has a great concept and hook: the father-daughter food detectives can help recreate any dish from your memories, no matter how difficult it is to obtain ingredients or how much time has passed since you've had it. Kashiwai expertly captures life in Kyoto and many of the regional dishes. This is a nostalgic and pleasant read.

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I didn't know that mysteries can also be light reading, but for The Kamogawa Food Detectives, yes, it is. The title is pretty self-explanatory, and the breakdown of how they solved their "cases" is certainly creative. This is a nice fresh spin on stories involving retired detectives. My only problem with this book is that reading it left me hungry.

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This book follows a father-daughter duo that run a restaurant also operate this "detective agency" where people can come in with a distinct food memory and they try to re-create the dish. This is so cozy and wholesome and would be great for anyone who enjoys calming cooking shows and/or the Japanese reality show Terrace House.

Thank you Penguin Group Putnam and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The January rain in San Francisco always makes me want to curl up with a blanket, a steaming mug, and a cozy book. After the rush of holidays, it’s nice to use the quiet space to rest my body and my spirit. So I have been looking especially forward to this next ARC of The Kamogawa Food Detectives. (Thanks to NetGalley and for the gift copy!)

The premise is simple: a father-daughter duo run a cute little café, which also serves that as the home of their “food detective agency”. They specialize in recreating recipes with the scarcest details - a type of food, a few hints as to its taste. It sounds charming, but can it stay entertaining for the full duration of the book?

The power of food

From the very first story, it’s clear that The Kamogawa Food Detectives has a Perspective on food. In these stories, meals are rituals and experiences worth savoring. Kashiwa and Kirkwood describe each item of food in mouthwatering detail, and it’s easy to understand why the cafe’s patrons keep coming back for more.

It’s about more than just the taste and diversity of the dishes, though. The Kamogawa Food Detectives demonstrates vividly how and why food can impact our memory and our spirit. While the stories range from the common (a widower wishing for one last taste of his late wife’s recipe) to the tricky (a patron trying to recreate a fond travel memory from decades past), they share a common, melancholy core. Each of the agency’s customers is in some phase of transition, and the food from the agency is almost permission from the universe to move forward. It’s about more than the food - it’s about how each dish ties to the memory of care and love.

Culinary puzzles

You could be forgiven for expecting that there’s not much actual detecting going on here. After all, how much work could recreating a dish truly be? But Kashiwa makes sure that the puzzles are difficult, both due to lapses in patrons’ memory and the challenge in perfectly recreating a flavor. Our protagonists battle both the ravages of time and the idiosyncrasies and personal nature of cooking in each solve.

The result are stories with immense attention to detail in each element of the food. Small hints about a customer’s origin can lead to long treks to hunt down specific ingredients, each sourced with love and care. Reading each solution has the feeling of a magic trick, of watching master at work. As a food lover myself, I couldn’t help but be awed at the creativity and attention to detail required to set up so many puzzles. It’s not exactly “fair play” - I’m not even close to having enough intuition for Japanese food ingredients to engage - it it’s so wonderfully constructed I didn’t really mind.

Nagare, our main detective, is no passive protagonist, either. He does extensive research, including traveling to relevant sites. Not only that, it’s clear that he practices his dishes until he can get them just perfect. “Pure” mysteries can sometimes valorize detachment, and it’s lovely to see a character who care so much for his clients.

Short stories, big flavor

I'm a pretty fast binge reader, and if I could change one thing about my reading experience of The Kamogawa Food Detectives, I would take it more slowly. While the stories within are related to each other by the protagonists, they're otherwise relatively independent. And like any good slice of life style story, they follow the same structure, which can be both comforting and repetitive. I ate up all the stories like little potato chips, but now I find myself wishing I'd savored them more. They're a perfect little end-of-night read, a little warm mental hug... and I wish I had extended that as long as I could.

Reader’s notes and rating (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

I adored this book, and drank it up like a steaming cup of carrot-ginger soup. (In fact, it made me so hungry that I went and got Japanese food the next day…) Reading this is like reading the coziest mystery, with all the murder-y bits removed. If you’re looking for something to snuggle up with, you can do no better than this read. (And if you’re looking for a more interactive version - you can try playing Hungry Hearts Diner, possibly the cutest restaurant simulation game I found in 2023. My one caveat - it might be best read as a series of short stories rather than in a longer sitting… But for what it is - perfection. Four stars.

Read this if...

You think cozy mysteries would be even better with less murder (but real puzzles)

You love food

You're looking for a book that's like a fast, warm hub

Skip this if...

You think mystery must mean murder

You skip all the relationship-y bits in cozy mysteries

You want a novel-length read

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