Praise for Keigo Higashino
‘Higashino offers one twist after another, all of which touch on the theme suggested by the book’s title. Readers will marvel at the artful way the plot builds to the solution of Hidaka’s murder’
‘Keigo Higashino again proves his mastery of the diabolical puzzle mystery with
‘Keigo Higashino combines Dostoyevskian psychological realism with classic detective-story puzzles reminiscent of Agatha Christie and E.C. Bentley’
‘Higashino continues to elevate the modern mystery as an intense and inventive literary form’
‘Intricate… At the outset, [Higashino’s] approach seems unsettling, but the Edgar nominee knows his business’
‘Each time you’re convinced Higashino’s wrung every possible twist out of his golden-age setup, he comes up with a new one’
‘Intricate and beguiling… if you like riddles inside enigmas, it will please you no end’
‘The plot is satisfyingly twisty and gathers pace as the revelations come thicker, faster, and more and more unexpected’
‘Each time Higashino makes a revelation, he quickly pulls the carpet from under one’s feet, fuelling the reader to finish the book as quickly as possible’
Keigo Higashino was born in Osaka. He started writing novels while still working as an engineer at Nippon Denso Co. He won the Edogawa Rampo Prize for writing at the age of twenty-seven, and subsequently quit his job to start a career as a writer in Tokyo.
Also by Keigo Higashino
The Devotion of Suspect X
Salvation of a Saint
Published by Little, Brown
Copyright © Keigo Higashino 2002
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Translation copyright © Alexander O. Smith 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
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Sasagaki left the station and headed west along the tracks. Despite being October it was still dreadfully muggy, yet the ground was dry so when a truck sped by it sent up clouds of dust. He frowned and rubbed his eyes, his feet falling heavy on the pavement. By all rights, he should have been spending the day at home enjoying some leisurely reading – in fact he’d been holding off on a new thriller just for the occasion.
A park came into view on the right, large enough to accommodate two pick-up softball games side by side. There was a jungle gym, swings, a slide – all the standard equipment. This, Masumi Park, was the largest in the area by far. On its far side stood a seven-storey building. Nothing unusual about the exterior, but Sasagaki knew that inside it was almost entirely hollowed out. Before joining the metropolitan police he’d been stationed with the local force here in the eastern part of Osaka, and he remembered a thing or two about his old beat. A crowd of onlookers had already gathered in front of the building, which was ringed by several squad cars.
Sasagaki didn’t head straight for the building, but took a right on the street before the park. The fifth building from the corner was a tiny shop with a frontage of barely more than two metres. A sign out front proclaimed GRILLED SQUID. The squid in question were grilled on a stand set in the front of the shop, behind which a chunky woman of around fifty sat reading the newspaper. Sasagaki glanced beyond her to see shelves loaded with sweets. The place was a popular after-school hangout, but he didn’t see any children today.
‘One, please,’ Sasagaki called out.
The woman hastily folded her newspaper and stood. ‘I’ll have that right up.’
Sasagaki smoked Peace brand cigarettes. He stuck one between his lips now, lit it with a match, and glanced at the newspaper where she’d left it on the chair.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH ANNOUNCES SEAFOOD MERCURY RESULTS, read one headline. Beneath it in smaller text:
Back in March, a judge had handed down a decision in the Minamata disease trial down in Kumamoto, clearing the way for the resolution of three other large public health trials in one blow: Minamata disease up in Niigata, one on extreme environmental pollution in Yotsukaichi, and Itai-itai disease. All of the cases had been decided in favour of the claimants. Now pollution was on everyone’s mind. In a nation that ate so much fish, worry spread fast that mercury and PCBs could be getting into the food supply.
The specialised griddle for baking the squid consisted of two hinged steel plates which pressed together, cooking the squid and its blanket of flour and egg between them. The aroma made his belly twitch with hunger.
The woman opened the griddle, revealing an oblong, flattened squid to which she applied sauce – just a light brushing – before cutting it in half. She wrapped the pieces in a single sheet of waxy brown paper and held it out.
Sasagaki glanced at the little sign that read SQUID: FORTY YEN and took out a few coins.
‘Thanks,’ the woman grunted cheerily before sitting back down with her newspaper.
Sasagaki was walking away when another woman stopped to say hello to the squid lady. A housewife from the neighbourhood, a backward glance told him. He paused. She was carrying a shopping basket in one hand.
‘What do you think it is? Must be something big,’ the housewife said, pointing towards the abandoned building.
‘Never seen so many cop cars around here,’ the squid lady noted. ‘Maybe some kid got hurt.’
Sasagaki turned around. ‘Sorry, did you say “kid”?’
‘Oh, they were always playing in there. I said it a thousand times, sooner or later one of ’em’s going to get hurt, and it looks like I was right. Unless you heard different?’
Sasagaki ignored the question. ‘Why would kids be playing in a place like that?’
‘Why do kids play anywhere?’ The squid lady shrugged. ‘I always said someone should do something about it. It’s not safe.’
Sasagaki finished off his squid and started towards the building, just another guy going to join the crowd of onlookers.
He ducked beneath the rope some uniformed officers had stretched across the front of the building. One of the officers glared at him, but backed down when Sasagaki patted his jacket over the pocket where every detective kept his badge.
Sasagaki went in to the foyer through a gap in the makeshift doors of plywood and scrap lumber. He’d expected it to be pretty dark inside and he was right; the air was heavy with mould and dust. He stood, blinking, hearing voices nearby.
Eventually his eyes adjusted and Sasagaki realised he was standing in what would have been an elevator bank. Two elevator doors stood off to the right behind a pile of loose construction materials and tangled electrical wires.
Straight ahead of him was a wall with a square, unfinished hole in it for a doorway. The blackness beyond was too dark to penetrate, but Sasagaki guessed he was looking at what would have been a car park.
There was a room to the left, set with another temporary plywood door, the words NO TRESPASSING scrawled on it in chalk. The door opened and two familiar faces emerged, both of them detectives in his unit.
‘Hey. Enjoying your day off?’ the older detective, a man by the name of Kobayashi, said. He was two years Sasagaki’s senior. The younger man, Detective Koga, had joined Homicide less than a year before.
‘I had a bad feeling when I woke up this morning,’ Sasagaki said. ‘Wish I’d been wrong for a change.’ He lowered his voice. ‘How’s the old man’s mood?’
Kobayashi frowned and shook his head. Koga gave a wry smile.
‘That’s what I figured,’ Sasagaki said. ‘Well, no rest for the wicked. What’s he up to in there?’
‘Dr Matsuno just got here.’
Kobayashi cleared his throat. ‘We’re going to take a look around outside, OK?’
‘Have at it.’
Sasagaki watched the two leave.