Blue Light Yokohama (Inspector Iwata #1) by Nicolás Obregón

 Source: Free review copy received from NetGalley

Five words from the blurb: Tokyo, murder, cult, suicide, investigation

I accepted a review request from NetGalley to read Blue Light Yokohama because I am a big fan of Japanese crime novels and this sounded like an interesting take on the genre. I’m pleased that I read it, as it had a fantastic ending, but I wish that the central section had been condensed, as the plot meandered a bit too much.

Blue Light Yokohama is a police procedural which begins with Inspector Iwata transferring to the Tokyo homicide squad. He is assigned to investigate the murder of a family of four; a disturbing crime with many ritualistic elements. The previous investigating officer committed suicide, so Inspector Iwata also has to deal with the problems caused by this.

Blue Light Yokohama has all the elements of a fantastic Japanese crime novel, but it tended to over-explain things – especially in the beginning. This could be a big positive if you are unfamiliar with Japanese culture, but I found it a bit patronising.

I also found the number of characters difficult to keep track of. Many of them were so similar that I kept mixing them up in my head. This problem was compounded by the number of side stories introduced. It could be said that these added to the difficulty of the “whodunnit” element, but I found there were so many I couldn’t possibly deduce why the crime was committed.

These complaints should only put off those who like fast-paced crime thrillers. The writing in this book was of a high standard and so will appeal to those looking for a slow-burner. The atmosphere was also beautifully described – if you can ever describe the Tokyo crime scene in that way!

The Tokyo cityscape stretched out below him, cities within cities, angles incalculable. Thirty-five million existences crammed into circadian rhythms of concrete and cables. Immense infrastructure, never-ending networks – all of it delicate as hummingbird heartbeats.

The book was based upon a real case and was well researched. Its reflection of real events made the story all the more chilling and I was impressed by the amount of information about police investigations that was included.

Overall, Blue Light Yokohama was a good, if slightly too long, crime novel and I look forward to seeing how Inspector Iwata’s character develops through the coming series.

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4 Comments

  1. Great review Jackie. I have been wondering whether to read this or not. I’ve enjoyed Japanese crime before but I have to be in the mood for it. Maybe one for later.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I love Japanese crime, but it tends to be more of a Winter read for me. Not sure what made me pick this up in April!!

  2. Is the author Japanese? I wonder if someone writing for a non-Japanese speaking audience might explain to the point of over-explaining the culture more than an author writing in Japanese would. I’ve been reading more from Japan and Korea lately. Lots of very good stuff out there waiting to be discovered. By me, at least.

    1. Jackie says:

      James, No, the author isn’t Japanese and I think that explains the over-explaining. I can see why some people might need it, but I prefer to have to research anything that might be new to me. I’ll head over to your blog now and see which lovely books you’ve been reading. :-)

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