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Blue Light Yokohama    by Nicolas Obregon order for
Blue Light Yokohama
by Nicolas Obregon
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a modern Japanese mystery by an author new to me - Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon. In it, we meet the engagingly vulnerable Inspector Iwata, recently transferred to a Tokyo Homicide Division. Iwata is haunted by a personal tragedy that left his American wife institutionalized. He has only recently transferred to the Tokyo precinct.

Iwata and his tough talking new female partner, Noriko Sakai, are assigned to investigate the horrific slaughter of a Korean family that has barely made the news. Iwata is concerned about the ritualistic nature of the crime (the father's heart taken and a jagged black sun inscribed on the ceiling above him) and suspects a serial killer. But, as they search for answers, their investigation is hampered and eventually blocked entirely from on high - why?

Though the 1996 opening of the novel is a clue, it's not one that readers will understand until the very end. Events unfold in a cable car in which a woman in filthy clothes (accompanied by a little girl) suddenly attacks the attendant with a knife, opens the door and leaps to her death. Though police officer Hideo Akashi, who is there with his wife, tries to stop her, he fails.

Fifteen years later, Akashi handled the Korean family case but had just committed suicide before it was assigned to Iwata. He persists, despite all the obstacles placed in his way, even traveling to Hong Kong on his own dime (which gets him into deeper trouble with his Tokyo bosses). There are further deaths, with the same modus operandi. And, with help from Noriko, Iwata eventually uncovers a link to a cult, Children of the Black Sun.

There are some very big surprises before it's all over and the Black Sun Killer is identified. Iwata barely survives his investigation, which also exposes serious police corruption. We're told that the mystery was 'inspired by a real-life unsolved murder' (read The Story of the Story of Blue Light Yokohama at the end), and this fictional version is certainly engrossing. It always makes my day to discover a new author I plan to follow.

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