A beguiling mystery set in Japan, and featuring ‘Detective Galileo’.

A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino is a difficult story to describe. The sticker on the front of the paperback proclaimed the author to be ‘The Japanese Stieg Larsson’, which is why I chose it when I visited Rushden Library. But actually, based on this novel I don’t think he’s much like Stieg Larsson at all. Nonetheless I still really enjoyed this story, which is full of charm and wonderful descriptions – enough to make me want to find out more about the location and certainly to read more books by this author.

Further research reveals Higashino is one of the most popular novelists in Asia, who has won multiple literary awards and had almost 20 of his books turned into films or TV series. Translations of his novels have also won (or been nominated for) awards in the West. So he’s definitely ‘Big in Japan’!

The plot
Basically, this is a murder mystery and Book 3 in a series featuring Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physics professor known as ‘Detective Galileo’. What became clear fairly soon is that Yukawa is a man with a brilliant brain who solves mysteries, but I wasn’t able to work out how he first became connected with the Tokyo police (whom he seems to assist). That’s probably because this story takes place in a coastal resort in the Shizuoka Prefecture, about 90 miles away from Tokyo, and so the Tokyo police are involved only on the periphery.

Yukawa has travelled to Hari Cove (a rather run-down resort) to speak at a conference on a planned underwater mining operation. The local community is divided between those who see the development opportunities for the town and those who fear the environmental impact.

On his journey to Hari Cove he meets a young boy travelling to stay with his aunt and uncle who own an inn. Yukawa decides not to check in at the conference hotel in the town centre and instead goes to stay at the inn. The next morning, when one of the other guests is found dead, Yukawa gets drawn into the case. The Tokyo police become involved when it’s discovered the dead man was a retired homicide detective. No-one can understand why he was in Hari Cove but later they realise he was looking into one of his old cases.

My verdict
I know the story doesn’t sound very exciting and if it’s excitement you’re after, you probably shouldn’t read this. But if you like well-written mysteries give it a try, because it’s a story with lots of different strands, each of them beguiling in their own way. I was hooked before I realised it.

The fact that it’s set in Japan makes it interesting as well. The descriptions of the landscape, the ocean, and Japanese life made me want to visit, or at least find out more; and my internet searches threw up some wonderful pictures of the Shizuoka coast, which looks magical. I’d give this 4-Stars and I’m going to search out Books 1 and 2 in the series, just to see whether I eventually work out the Stieg Larsson connection!
Review by: Cornish Eskimo

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