A woman is found strangled in her Tokyo apartment, but everyone who knew her swears she had no enemies. Police detective Kyoichiro Kaga retraces the victim's steps in her final hours and interviews everyone who had any contact with her, however brief. Witnesses and possible suspects include an insurance agent, the victim's ex-husband, the co-owner of a restaurant, an accountant, a clerk at a pastry store and the owner of a clock shop. Several of them seem to be concealing information, purposely misleading or outright lying. But nothing evades the detective's keen intelligence and watchful eye as he tracks down the truth.

Though murder is no laughing matter, Kaga remains a delightful character in Keigo Hagashino's Newcomer, the second book in the Kaga series after Malice. He's the Japanese Columbo, sloppily dressed and unintimidating--until he hits interviewees with just one more question that makes them squirm.

The author offers amusing descriptions: for example, a young girl spots police detectives and thinks: "If she had to classify them, she'd have to go with 'geezer.' " Newcomer's structure calls to mind a Robert Altman movie, each chapter spotlighting a different set of characters in a story that can stand alone; intertwined, they present a complete picture that provides the solution to the case. And Kaga isn't after only the murderer. He solves smaller mysteries to bring closure touchingly to those on the tangents of the case, because "[f]inding ways to comfort them is part of my job." Fans of classic whodunits should introduce themselves to this newcomer immediately. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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