Keigo Higashino is a best-selling author in Japan, who has won major awards and who is also internationally recognized for his mystery novels. The Final Curtain, a police procedural, is the fourth in his Detective Kaga series and is believed to be the last. It features, once again, Kyoichiro Kaga, a Tokyo police detective.

In this episode, Detective Kaga finds himself embroiled in a pair of complex murder cases. He teams up with his cousin Shuhei Matsumiya, who is also employed as a police detective, but in another precinct. Little does Detective Kaga realize that he’s also stepping into the unsolved disappearance case of his mother long ago. She abandoned her husband and a child, Kaga, clandestinely, without offering a clue as to why she left. Eventually, she was found murdered in another town.

Apparently unrelated and taking place in the present time, is the case of Michiko Oshitani, a young sales representative of a company. Highly regarded by her co-workers, she’s found strangled to death in an apartment in Tokyo, far away from where she lives. This baffles all who knew her, as does the vanishing of the man who rented that apartment. Who was he? What was Michiko’s purpose in being there?

Enter Hiromi Kadokura, an attractive and mysterious woman, who was abandoned by her parents and who had a troubled adolescence. By applying herself diligently, she has become a successful actress and is now the director of a theater company. The play currently being performed has proven to be popular. Coincidentally, she and Michiko went to school together. In fact, Michiko seemed to have visited her at the theater prior to being murdered.

Yet another murder takes place not far away. Can there be a connection?

Maintaining family bonds and making sacrifices for one’s loved ones are two major themes of the book. Of the many clues that Detective Kaga puzzles over is a list of bridges, one for each month of the year, with an apparent reference to a bridge ceremony. Why does he encounter the same list at Hiromi’s house? What secret might she be hiding?

The presence of a host of characters with unfamiliar names might baffle some readers. Still, there are rewards for being persistent, such as insights into how the Japanese interact with each other. It makes one marvel that despite leading busy lives how polite they are to strangers, how amicably they welcome the law enforcement in their homes, and how willing they are to share their recollections, always over a gentle cup of tea.

Bharti Kirchner is the author of nine novels and four cookbooks. Her most recent novel is ‘Murder at Jaipur: A Maya Mallick Mystery.’

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