A veteran detective is challenged in more ways than one as he struggles to acclimate to his new position while also chasing a dangerous serial killer in Nicolas Obregon’s Blue Light Yokohama.
Obregon’s first book in his all-new series kicks off with a bang. Iwata, a smart, gritty police inspector, had just been reinstated to his post as a homicide detective before he was suddenly transferred to Tokyo’s Divison One squad.
After facing criticism from other detectives, including the Senior Inspector, who believes he’s both unfit and unqualified for the job, Iwata is partnered with Sakai, a headstrong female investigator who adds balance to Iwata’s early mysteriousness. (Later on, readers will learn that Iwata has some skeletons in his closet, which makes understanding him a lot easier.)
On their first case together, Iwata and Sakai investigate a gruesome quadruple murder. The Kaneshiros, a Korean family, were killed in their home, and the details are rather stomach-churning. After the parents and their two children were slaughtered, the killer apparently cut out the husband’s heart. The killer covers their tracks well–no clues were left behind except for one they intended to leave: a set of cryptic symbols etched into the ceiling.
Making Iwata and Sakai’s job more difficult is the fact that their department gives them few resources to work with. Everyone else is more concerned about the death of a celebrity, and few worry about a dead Korean family.
Almost immediately, Iwata suspects the killings were all part of ritualistic murders, but other strong motives present themselves. Each family member had, on some level, strong suspects connected to them who could be the killer. Another case, however, bearing similar circumstances to the Kaneshiro family, leads Iwata back to his original assumption that it’s all the workings of a religious cult.
As the story develops, Obregon weaves Iwata’s backstory into the plot. Likewise, more details about the case are revealed, alluding to police corruption and a far more sinister plot than Iwata (or readers) could have imagined.
Blue Light Yokohama is very dark, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Obregon, like his fictional detective, is a rule-breaker. Ignoring traditional styles of storytelling, the author’s work is a cross between a slasher film and a police procedural, and doesn’t move especially fast. Yet, even with the uncomfortably brutal scenes and slow pacing, the novel is well-written and engaging.
Some readers will be more drawn to Sakai instead of Iwata, as she’s far more relatable and also interjects much needed, though subtle, humor into the plot. And while the story is set in Tokyo, it’s easy to forget that from time to time while reading along.
In the end, Obregon pulls off a surprising conclusion that comes together rather nicely. If dark crime novels are your thing, Blue Light Yokohama should make its way into your reading list. However, others will likely find it too violent, and too much of a slow-burn to really enjoy.
Author: Nicolas Obregon
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: March 7, 2017 (Order Now!)