A veteran police detective matches wits with a brilliant rookie criminal.
Meticulous high-school math teacher Ishigami frequents the modest box-lunch shop Benten-tei because of his crush on Yasuko Hanaoka, a young mother who works there. Yonazawa and his wife Sayoko, who manage the shop, speculate regularly about Ishigami's visits, but Yasuko seems oblivious to his attention. Although she and her daughter Misato are Ishigami's apartment building neighbors, they've never spoken outside of the shop. One evening, Yasuko's abusive ex-husband Togashi surprises her at home. A fight ensues, and when Misato intervenes to help her mother, Togashi is killed. As the panicked Yasuko considers her options, Ishigami knocks on her door and takes charge, from disposing of the body to crafting alibis for them. Enter veteran detective Kusanagi and his brisk junior partner Kishitani, who examine the body, dumped naked and wrapped in blue plastic in a factory district, its face bashed in. The inevitable discovery of the victim's identity leads to the pro forma questioning of both Yasuko and Ishigami. Kishitani is ready to dismiss them as suspects, but the veteran Kusanagi puts them on a mental back burner. Ishigami obsessively replays and adjusts his movements, using the murder to get close to Yasuko. When detective Manabu Yukawa, Ishigami's college rival, is added to the investigative team, it threatens to send him over the edge.
This character-driven mystery by the prolific Higashino (Malice, 2009, etc.), one of only a few translated into English, has much to recommend it, including a droll Columbo-like sleuth and a great surprise ending.