It was in the late 1930s that private detective Kosuke Kindaichi solved The Honjin Murders, the brutal killing of a newlywed couple in Okayama. Military service has prevented him from investigating another case since. Death on Gokumon Island, the second book in the Detective Kindaichi Mystery series by Seishi Yokomizo, begins just after the Second World War, and soldiers are returning home.

Rolled omelet, fried mackerel, chicken skewers, vegetable takiawase are just a few of the signature menu items at Namiki-ya, the place for the best appetizers and latest local gossip in Kikuno. Despite the convivial atmosphere they maintain in their restaurant, the eponymous Namiki family are coming off  a tragic loss of a few years earlier—their eldest daughter Saori, who was preparing for a career as a professional singer, disappeared from their quiet Tokyo neighborhood.

It’s 1951 and Jean-Luc Guéry, a perpetual ne’er-do-well, has arrived in Saigon from his native Côte d’Azur to look into the as yet unsolved murder of his brother. Guéry, a hack reporter for the regional Journal d’Antibes, has a fondness for alcohol and a weakness for gambling. His brother, on the other hand, was running a respectable business importing agricultural machinery but was found floating face down in the Arroyo Chinois with a bullet in his head. 

To some extent, all one needs to know about The Java Enigma is that it has been called, more than once, “Da Vinci Code”-like. This will either intrigue or repel, depending on how one feels about Dan Brown’s genre-creating blockbuster. Neither reaction would however be entirely warranted, for—while there are certainly similarities—Erni Salleh’s debut novel is quite a different animal. For one thing, it’s a lot shorter.

Self-described “old retired gardener who was now pushing eighty-six”, Mas Arai makes his final appearance as an amateur detective in Naomi Hirahara’s novel Hiroshima Boy. I would add cantankerous to his self-description, in all the best literary nuances of that word. This seventh and final novel in the mystery series finds Arai-san in Hiroshima, where he lived through World War II, surviving the atomic bomb blast. He is there to return the cremated ashes of his friend, Haruo, to his friend’s sister who lives on a small island named Ino, a short ferry ride from Hiroshima.