Book review: 『祈りの幕が下りる時』 by Keigo Higashino


Title: 『祈りの幕が下りる時』 (いのりのまくがおりるとき)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)
Published by 講談社文庫
443 pages

This is the tenth book in the Kaga series (加賀恭一郎シリーズ). As far as I know, this is the last one on the series for now, though a spin-off was released in 2019: 『希望の糸』. The main character is Kaga’s cousin who also appears in three books of the main series.

Short review

As always when it comes to the Kaga series, this book is excellent. The case is great, the investigation engrossing and the characters have more depth than in most crime fiction. The story is also very important for Kaga himself, and while it is not necessary, reading the previous books first might be better to fully appreciate it.

Long Review

To me, this book was simply perfect. The police investigation was suspenseful, the characters were easy to identify with, and the story was complex but very powerful.

As often with the Kaga series, this book is not only about murder and finding the culprit. It is about understanding people and why they act like they do, how they found themselves involved in a murder case. I like that there is no good or bad people, but that what determines the characters’ actions is more complex and often anchored in their past.

In this story, we also learn a lot about Kaga’s mother, who had been mentioned previously but about whom we knew very little. With 『悪意』 that reveals why Kaga left the educational field to enter the police and 『赤い指』 that is about Kaga’s father, 『祈りの幕が下りる時』 is one of the books that contain the most elements relative to Kaga and his family. While the story can be read independently, it does add to the reading experience to have read previous titles before this one. I personally recommend to at least read the books following 『赤い指』 in order: 『赤い指』, 『新参者』, 『麒麟の翼』, 『祈りの幕が下りる時』.

Elements about Kaga’s mother are so well integrated in the case that the pace of the investigation never suffers from passages that dig into the past. It makes for an engrossing read from beginning to end, but if you are a fan of Kaga as a character and want to know more about his past and his family, this is book is simply a delight.

I really hope that there will be more books in the series. At the same time, this one does wrap up the series very well, so it also makes for a perfect last book.

Book review: 『麒麟の翼』 by Keigo Higashino


Title: 『麒麟の翼』 (きりんのつばさ)
Author: Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)
Published by 講談社文庫
372 pages.

This is the 9th book in the detective Kaga series (加賀恭一郎シリーズ).


When it comes to Japanese crime fiction, Keigo Higashino is my favourite author, and when it comes to Keigo Higashino, the books of the Kaga series are my favourite ones. No surprise then, that I loved 『麒麟の翼』.

The investigative parts of the novel were excellent and engrossing, exactly what a reader of detective fiction is looking for. However, the novel is not a simple investigation, it also goes deep into how a murder case affects everyone involved, the relatives of the victims of course, but also the relatives of the person accused. As it is said in the novel, finding the culprit is not enough to close the case. As long as we don’t understand why it happened, the families and relatives will continue to suffer.

『麒麟の翼』 is the perfect balance between a well-paced and engrossing investigation and an in-depth work on the characters and how they feel.

Watching Kyoichiro Kaga working is also a pure joy. I find that Higashino really managed to make Kaga an iconic detective by giving him a distinctive way of investigating. Leaving no stone unturned, paying attention to details and constantly checking everything are Kaga’s distinctive features.

If you want to read 『麒麟の翼』 I really recommend that you read 『赤い指』 and 『新参者』 first. You can read all the books of the series independently, but I find that there is a shift starting with 『赤い指』 where the books start having an underlying chronological thread whereas the previous books were more independent from one another. For example, in 『新参者』, Kaga had just been assigned to Nihonbashi and was solving his first case there while familiarising himself with 日本橋人形町. In 『麒麟の翼』, Kaga seems to know every street and shop of the area, which is a nod to 『新参者』.

『麒麟の翼』 also contains elements that are the direct continuation of 『赤い指』. It also reveals things relative to Kaga’s relation with his father that you only learn at the end of 『赤い指』, so it is best to read this one first. In both novels, Kaga is working together with his cousin Shuhei Matsumiya, so again, if you have read 『赤い指』, you might enjoy 『麒麟の翼』 even more.

Recommended reading order: 赤い指 👉 新参者 👉 麒麟の翼

Lastly, I also recommend that you don’t read the summary on the back cover because it reveals things we only learn late in the novel. I had already noticed that summaries tend to reveal much too much, so I took the habit of reading them only after I finish the book.

Book Review: 『新参者』by Keigo HIGASHINO

About the book

Title: 『新参者』(しんざんもの)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO 東野圭吾
Published by 講談社文庫

『新参者』is the 8th (out of 10) book of the detective Kaga series (加賀シリーズ). The series feature detective Kyoichiro KAGA (加賀恭一郎). The series spans 30 years, the first novel was published in 1986 (it was Higashino’s second novel) and the last one was published in 2016.


Detective Kyoichiro KAGA has just been dispatched to the police station of Nihonbashi. He is a “newcomer” (新参者) in the neighborhood. When a woman is found dead in her apartment, Kaga starts an unconventional investigation through which we get to know the life of several shopkeepers and inhabitants of the neighborhood.


Keigo HIGASHINO is my favourite author of genre fiction (regardless of the country) and among all the novels and short stories I have read by Keigo Higashino, the books of the Kaga series are my favourites. And among the books of the series that I have read so far, 『悪意』, 『私が彼を殺した』and 『新参者』are my favourites (in this order). Needless to say that I have loved this novel.

What I particularly enjoy in the Kaga series is that some of them are really surprising. While they still offer what the reader of detective stories is looking for, some titles of the series are revitalising the genre of detective stories.

『新参者』has a very interesting structure and is simply a delight to read. We get to see how Kaga investigates and solves mysteries while meeting engaging characters. But just as I thought that this novel was more a series of puzzle solving than a true investigation, I was surprised to see how everything falls into place and how consistent the story is.

As you certainly expect, I heartily recommend this book if you like mystery and detective novels. I also think that 『新参者』can be appreciated by a lot of readers, even those who don’t necessarily like crime fiction.

Book review: 「赤い指」by 東野圭吾

「赤い指」is the seventh book of the detective Kaga series “加賀恭一郎シリーズ” (かが・きょういちろう) by Keigo HIGASHINO. Before starting the review of this novel, I would like to say a word about the series.

The series

First, you don’t have to read them in order. Even though they follow a chronological order (starting when Kaga is still a student), it would not impact the comprehension of each story to read them separately or in a random order.

I also find that the books are very different from each other in terms of structure. The first two novels were very similar with two main focalisations that alternate (a chapter seen from the point of view of Kaga, then a chapter seen from the point of view of another character). The third book, 「悪意」was very unique and different from the other novels. The following two books were very similar: we read the story from the point of view of another or other characters of the story and we don’t know what detective Kaga is up to. The sixth book was a collection of short stories. Again, in each short story, we are not given the possibility to follow detective Kaga. We see how he works and how the investigation progresses through the eyes of the other characters of the story that are not close to him.

All this to say that the books of the Kaga series upset everything I was used to when it comes to crime novels. To me, the thrill came from the investigation I was participating in. Going through the clues with the detective, making deduction with him, be dumbfounded by the solution and so on.

But more than once, Keigo HIGASHINO places the reader on the side of the suspects, and it also happens that the reader should know who is the criminal right from the beginning.

I also feel that detective Kaga is a kind of supernatural human, like other great fictional detectives before him. But alas, the reader is not allowed to be a supernatural human, like Kaga. We are on the other side, the side of the too human emotions, the passions and the fears that lead to crime. Higashino places the reader among the human characters, the ones that make irrational choices and have to deal with it. Maybe this is one of the reasons that make me love the series so much.

The book

Now let’s take a look at 「赤い指」!

We have here a new kind of structure: two focalisation that alternate: a character closely linked to the case and a detective… which is not Kaga but works with him. For the first time since ages, the reader is allowed to see Kaga working. Even if we don’t know how he thinks, we are very close to observe his methods, and this was an absolutely good point of the novel to me.

As always in Higashino’s novels, I found that the characters sounded real. Without altering the pace of the novel, we are given sufficient insights into the life, the past and the problems of the main characters to understand how they feel. It becomes easy to connect with them and the complexity of the characters inner self and emotions is a part of what makes the book so interesting.

This is particularly true with「赤い指」as it questions Japanese society through the depiction of its characters. An interesting theme is present through the whole novel: it shows how people have to take care of their ageing parents, with both the lack of specialised institution and the sense of duty that weigh on most families. These reflexions brought a real plus to the novel.

But of course, the main feature of interest does not lie in the social criticism but in the case. Even though the reader knows very soon what happened, the novel is still thrilling and I guess that this is where Higashino’s genie resides. There is a tension that keeps growing through the novel, the reader is in turns wondering: “will I caught the murderer?” and “will I be caught?”. But while it seems that we know every detail of what happened since the beginning, everything might not be as it looks like and a shocking detail might be waiting for us at the end. This is another reason why the Kaga series is so exciting. The reader is not supposed to only take a side and share a character’s point of view, he has to use his critical reasoning, read between the lines, pay attention to details. In other words, we are challenged to find the truth by ourselves and not rely on what the characters say or think.

To conclude, I would simply say that I loved this novel and read it very fast. I never read a Japanese novel so quickly. I am tempting to say that it was one of the most, if not the most, easy novel of the series (from a Japanese level point of view) but it could also be that I improved my reading skills since I read the first one. Particularly, reading several other authors, including challenging ones, certainly expanded my capacities a little and returning to a Higashino novel felt like returning to something easy and familiar.

If you are interested in the Kaga series, my favourites are 「悪意」(though I felt this one was a little more difficult to read than the others), 「私が彼を殺した」and 「赤い指」.

An extract:

This is the beginning of the second chapter when we are introduced to one of the protagonists: 前原昭夫 (まえはら・あきお). Of course, there are parts more difficult than others, but if you can read this, I think that you can read the novel.


Reference: 「赤い指」、東野圭吾、講談社文庫、pp.13-14.

Book review: 嘘をもうひとつだけ by 東野圭吾

「嘘をもうひとつだけ」is the 6th book of the Kaga series 加賀恭一郎シリーズ by Higashino Keigo. If you are not familiar with this series, it features detective 加賀恭一郎 Kaga Kyoichiro and is composed of 10 books. The first novel of the series was one of the first novels written by Higashino Keigo (「卒業」was published in 1989*) and the last one 「祈りの幕が下りる時」is very recent since it was published in 2016.

Why I love this series

I really like detective Kaga because he is very different from other contemporary detectives that all seem to share the same flaws: bad temper, tobacco or alcohol problem (if not worse), a haunting past, very disagreeable manners and tone, conflicting relation with hierarchy, impossible personality and so on.

Kaga Kyoichiro is, on the contrary, described as a very polite person, always using the most beautiful honorific language. To be honest, as every Japanese learner maybe, I have always been unwilling to learn the honorific verbs and expressions. But, reading several books featuring Kaga somewhat made me see the honorific language as something cool and something I want to master.

The fact that Kaga has been a kendo champion also plays on his personality. He is always calm and composed, observes the opposite party and asks relevant questions. His investigation is very thorough. If he sometimes seems to know everything, it is the result of a careful and methodical investigation associated with some logical deduction.

Another point that makes detective Kaga different from other police detectives is that he is often seen from the point of view of another character. As a consequence, it is difficult to know what he thinks, what conclusions he has reached and who he suspects. This is even truer given that we often see Kaga, not from the point of view of a colleague, but from the point of view of the suspect or one of the suspects. This is to me the most interesting feature of the series. The reader finds himself or herself on the side of the suspects and Kaga’s appearances, questions and deductions are quite frightening.

Why you can start by 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」

As I said in the introduction, 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」is the 6th book of the series. However, if you want to read one book of the series without really wanting to read all the novels, this one is a good choice.

First of all, 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」is not a novel but a collection of short stories. They are not supposed to happen before or after the other stories, even though the first short story hints at the second novel of the series by saying that Kaga is familiar with the world of the ballet. But this is just a detail that does not matter at all for the understanding of the story. Therefore, you don’t need to have read the other novels to read this collection of short stories, and nothing in it will spoil the previous cases.

Furthermore, these short stories are a great presentation of detective Kaga. To me, they could be trailers for the series, showing how Kaga works and providing a condensé of the most exciting moments of a detective novel: the discovery of the crime scene, the interrogation of the suspect, the final confrontation, etc. In fact, I think that you could read this book to see whether you like or not this style and if you do, go on with the other novels.

Why 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」 is easy to read for Japanese learners

I already said that some novels by Higashino Keigo were relatively easy to read. It is even more applicable to「嘘をもうひとつだけ」because it has the advantage of being short. The whole book is only 269 pages long, and each of the 5 short stories is around 50 pages long. They are mainly composed of dialogues, which makes them even easier to understand.

Another thing that greatly facilitates the understanding is that they are all structured more or less in the same way, with very little characters involved. Either the story is entirely composed of a long dialogue between Kaga and another character (the first and the last short stories), either the story follows the same pattern: it opens with one character confronted with a murder, and detective Kaga will appear several times, resulting in the story being composed of several dialogues, flashbacks and some short narrative parts.


The reason why I loved 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」is because they really feature detective Kaga. Even if he is not the central character of the stories, he is very present, contrary to the 5th and 6th book of the series. The cases were very intriguing too and even if I do prefer reading long novels, reading this book was very entertaining, and I highly recommend it!

* The publication date is the one from 講談社文庫

Book review: 「私が彼を殺した」by 東野圭吾

This is the 5th novel of the detective Kaga series by Higashino Keigo. If you are not familiar with Higashino Keigo, he is certainly the most famous contemporary Japanese writer of mystery and detective novels. His books are systematically translated into Korean, but sadly, there are only a few translations available in English or French…

Detective Kaga series is maybe the main series of Higashino Keigo. The first novel of the series was published in 1986 and the last one only some years ago. Reading the books of the series in order allows us to see how Highashino Keigo himself evolved and how the society changed, too. For example, the use of cellphones or other “new technologies” is slowly introduced and used in his novels.

I would say that the first three novels of the series,「卒業」, 「眠りの森」 and 「悪意」, where more or less focused on Kaga himself and you could say that he was the protagonist or one of the protagonists of the novels. In this three novels, we get to learn a little about Kaga’s past and life and I recommend to read them in the order of publication.

In 「どちらかが彼女を殺した」 and 「私が彼を殺した」, however, it seems that Higashino Keigo decided to focus entirely on the case and didn’t let us draw near to Kaga’s past or feelings or thoughts. In 「どちらかが彼女を殺した」, there is only one focalization. The novel is told using the third person and we only see Kaga through the eyes of another character. In this novel, there were only two suspects and both the protagonist and Kaga tried to know which of the two was the culprit.

The novel 「私が彼を殺した」 presents a lot of similarities with 「どちらかが彼女を殺した」. First, the title very resembles the previous one, and we are warned that there will be three suspects. But what is different is the focalization. We have three different narrators, each speaking using the first person. It will be obvious from the beginning that these three narrators are the three suspects in the case…

Now, imagine the position of the reader: you are supposed to read about a criminal case but the story is told by the three suspects! As a reader, you have no other choice but to rely on what you read. What is more, each narration begins where the previous one stopped. This means that you don’t know what the suspects have done during the time when they were not the narrator.

Are we to trust what the narrators say? Can the reader find out who is saying too little or who says too much and gives clues? Anyway, This is a novel where the reader must definitively be attentive to everything that is said, and work his or her way through the case. The reader is supposed to take the role of a detective and find the culprit…

My feelings

This is one of the best detective stories that I have ever read, and I am not saying that because I am a fan of Higashino Keigo but because I couldn’t stop thinking of the case even when I was not reading the book. I am tempted to say that this is my favourite Higashino’s book so far… but there was 「悪意」, too, and I can’t choose between the two.

All I can say is that I read this book in less than a week (I mean, the book was in Japanese, so consider it to be very fast), it is the kind of novel that you can’t stop once you started it. For once, I was not focused on understanding the novel in Japanese, but on finding who done it. Detective story readers surely want to read novels where they can find the culprit themselves, and this is the case in most of Higashino’s novels and this one is no exception. I would even say that the reader has to be active.

I highly recommend this novel to everyone who can read in Japanese. As Kaga does not appear that much (in fact, I always felt like I was the detective of the story, not him), there is no need to have read the previous novels to read this one.


I just don’t understand why Higashino’s novels are not massively translated into English or French or any other western languages. His books are always covering the tables of Korean bookshops, each new publication is a best-seller and former novels belong to the steady-sellers shelf… I may be mistaken but as far as I know, only few novels of the Kaga series are available in Western languages and 「私が彼を殺した」has not been translated into English. I know that a French publisher translates some of Higashino’s work but they do not focus on the Kaga series. 

We are still so fascinated by Agatha Christie’s Murder of Roger Ackroyd as if nothing could be done that would be half so good. But what Higashino Keigo does is also incredibly daring. He plays with narration codes and offers us an exciting reading experience.

If you like detective stories, if you like to hunt down a suspect, collect clues and work your way through a case, if you like to feel that you are maybe manipulated and enjoy it, if you like to see protagonists gather in a room to discuss the case and reveal the culprit à la Agatha Christie… then learn Japanese. 


Review: どちらかが彼女を殺した by Higashino Keigo 東野圭吾

I have finally finished the fourth book of the Kaga series, by Higashino Keigo. I read this series because I like the personality of Higashino Keigo’s detective. But even if we do learn important things about Kaga in the first novel of the series and in 悪意, I didn’t feel that I got to know Kaga better in this novel.

In fact, in this novel, Detective Kaga is not even the protagonist, and the reader never reaches Kaga’s mind. We see the progress of Kaga’s investigation through the eyes of the real protagonist, a police officer whose sister is found dead in her apartment. I personally found very frustrating that Kaga was so little present in this novel, but the story was still exciting.

The reader must investigate, too

Higashino Keigo offers his readers not only a novel but a real investigation. Every detail counts, every description and dialogues can reseal something of importance for the case. In most of Higashino Keigo’s stories, the action is less important than logical deduction. With all the gathered clues, one has to make possible scenarios and see if every thing fit into it.

I liked the fact that the reader can participate and even has to participate. Instead of taking vocabulary notes I should have written down every clue, drawn a sketch of the scene where the body was discovered and noted what we learn about the two main suspects.

I appreciated this novel, especially the concurrence between the main protagonist and Kaga, and I also liked the end, which was very surprising. I was just disappointed that the focalisation never changed (like it used to do in other novels of the series).

As for the Japanese difficulty, it was not the easiest book I have read by Higashino Keigo. What was easy is that there were a few main characters, a few places and little action. That means little description. The whole novel is mainly composed of dialogues which are much easier to understand than narrative and descriptive passages. However, when there were descriptions, I found them challenging, with important but difficult words. As the reader has to understand every detail to be able to take part in the investigation, this book does require some amount of concentration.

If you want to read this book, you can check the list I made of all the characters that appear or are mentioned in the story.

To see a short review of other books from Higashino Keigo I read in Japanese, here is the page!