Higashino leaves behind the increasingly weighty cases of Detective Galileo (A Midsummer’s Equation, 2016, etc.) for an even more daunting stand-alone that traces the fallout of an unsolved murder through nearly two decades.
Yosuke Kirihara is found in an abandoned building a kilometer away from the Osaka home that doubled as his pawnshop, stabbed five times. His wife, Yaeko, would be the obvious suspect even if she weren’t a former escort a generation younger than her husband, but Detective Junzo Sasagaki can find no evidence against her. He focuses instead on Fumiyo Nishimoto, a customer whose home in Yoshida Heights Kirihara had visited shortly before his death, but Fumiyo provides an alibi—though Tadao Terasaki, the lover who provides it, is killed in a car crash—and the case fades away. So, for quite a while, does Sasagaki; instead, Higashino follows the lives of two children involved in the case, Kirihara’s 10-year-old son, Ryo, and his customer’s young daughter, Yukiho. As they make their ways through adolescence and into adulthood, corruption begins slowly and steadily to take its toll on Ryo and Yukiho. He drifts into a life of pimping his male school friends and stealing computer-game software before it can be copyrighted; she’s adopted by elegant Reiko Karasawa when her mother dies and, blossoming into fatal beauty, drifts through a series of fraught friendships and romances, one of which ends in an equally fraught marriage. All the while, Sasagaki, his efforts supplemented by those of private investigator Satoshi Imaeda, keeps an unobtrusive eye on the two surviving children, preparing to close the case, though many readers will long since have anticipated his unsparing climactic revelations.
Despite its epic length, Higashino keeps his world remarkably claustrophobic, scattering just enough references to movies, current events, and first-generation home computers to let you know where the lead characters, aging but powerless to change, stand as the story rolls toward its bleakly preordained end.