A Tokyo CEO’s determination to run his marriage as a business is ended by a dose of arsenous acid.
Information technology company president Yoshitaka Mashiba knows what he wants, and what he wants is a child. If his wife Ayane, a noted patchwork quilter, can’t give him one after a year of marriage, he’s prepared to divorce her and move on to some likelier candidate. But his plans are thwarted when someone poisons his coffee during a weekend when Ayane is conveniently away in Sapporo. Is the killer Hiromi Wakayama, the apprentice quilter whom Yoshitaka had taken as his mistress? She seems the last person in the world who’d poison her lover, but she was clearly the only person present when he died. Detective Kusanagi, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, searches in vain for other suspects, but the real question this claustrophobic mystery poses isn’t whodunit but how it happened—how and when the poison got into Yoshitaka’s coffee cup without leaving traces anywhere else, not even in Hiromi’s cup. For better or worse, Kusanagi (The Devotion of Suspect X, 2011) finds that every time he and his junior colleagues eliminate each possible way some absent party could have doctored Yoshitaka’s coffee, consulting physicist Manabu Yukawa, aka Detective Galileo, comes up with some alternative scenario that’s even more preposterous.
A retro puzzler that recalls Anthony Berkeley’s classic The Poisoned Chocolates Case in its structure: a hyperextended short story whose complications keep unfolding and proliferating till it’s grown to novel length.