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A Detective Story Set in Japan

By Timothy Hemion

iUniverse, 2004
ISBN: 0-595-30979-8

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

A man is found slain in an alley in Okayama, a smallish city some 200 kilometers west from Osaka (in the direction of Hiroshima and in the opposite direction of Tokyo) near the commuter railway lines. The victim appears to have been killed in a style preferred by the Japanese crime syndicates. Inspector Morimoto is called in on the case, as is his assistant, Officer Suzuki, a young mathematics graduate of Tokyo University. There are one or two details that niggle at the where is the victim's umbrella? It is pouring down rain and he would certainly have had an umbrella but there is no umbrella to be found at the murder site, or at the victim's workplace, or home. And the victim's girlfriend claims not to have the missing umbrella as well.

Also puzzling to the Inspector is what he finds inside a coin locker at the train station. The key to the locker was found in the dead man's pocket.

With over twenty-five years experience, Inspector Morimoto has solved many crimes but this one seems to be a puzzler. He methodically sets about to gather clues and piece together the crime. Or is there more than one crime and if so, how are they connected? Are Japanese gangsters somehow involved? The victim was heavily in debt due to gambling losses...

One might wonder why a mathematics graduate would choose police work but it is easily explained in the text, in mathematics and police investigations, one adds up the numbers (or clues) and arrives at a solution.

I'm not sure how to describe Inspector Morimoto and Officer Suzuki, without scaring off some readers. I found them to be almost cartoonish -- and I don't mean that in a negative way. It's just that the author's writing style had me thinking the Inspector would make a great animated series, or graphic novel. The central characters are delightful. The intricate plot will keep most readers working alongside the Inspector as he sets about unraveling the mystery of the dead man and his missing umbrella. In fact, that is one of the most appealing aspects of this novel. The reader is allowed to "accompany" Inspector Morimoto as he travels on the trains, interviews suspects, and tosses ideas back and forth with his assistant. It makes me want to visit Okayama and who knows, perhaps bump into the Inspector on one of the trains.

INSPECTOR MORIMOTO and the TWO UMBRELLAS is the first of three novels to feature the Inspector and his assistant, Officer Suzuki. Second in the series is INSPECTOR MORIMOTO and the DIAMOND PENDANTS. Third is INSPECTOR MORIMOTO and the FAMOUS POTTER.

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