I discovered Keigo Higashino through one of those yearly book lists, which listed his most recent book translated to English: Newcomer. He is supposedly a famous mystery novelist in Japan and I picked up The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping, translated to English by Jan Mitsuko Cash.
Our protagonist Sakuma works at an advertising agency and is very successful at his job. When his latest grand project is rejected by famous industrialist Katsuragi, he tries to visit him personally. A run-in there with his peeved daughter Juri, brings them together to hatch a game: to fake a kidnapping of Juri to extort a large sum of money from Katsuragi. Sakuma and Juri lay down a meticulous and delicious set of chess moves to evade the cops and get their prize without getting caught. And just when you think Sakuma has brilliantly succeeded the tables are flipped in the third act.
This was my first Higashino novel and I loved it. Regular Higashino readers seem to be complaining about the translation quality of this one, but I felt it was fine. I can see how Occidental readers who are not familiar with Japanese manga, anime or movies might feel that the tone of the translation is too casual. But Japanese actually converse casually like this in real life with peers they know well. The novel is fast paced, thrilling and easy to read. I was expecting a surprise in the third act and the author delivered a brilliant twist. I know I will be eyeing more Higashino novels when I want to be taken on an exciting ride.
Rating: 4/4 (★★★★)