The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard

This was another 99p download, and, hot on the heels of The Honjin Murders, another detective novel with a Japanese connection. One of our protagonists here is Umiko Wada, the general factotum to Kazuto Kodaka, who runs an agency specialising in uncovering corporate espionage.

So far so good. A Tokyo-set thriller, you might think. But then a client comes in who wants her husband’s death in London, decades before, to be investigated, and it falls to Wada to travel to England, posing as the widow.

And it’s in England that we meet our second protagonist, Nick Miller, a private school teacher and artist who is vaguely troubled by the fact that he never knew his father. And now that his late mother is out of the picture and his wife is away with friends, he decides to bite when an old family acquaintance contacts him.

By coincidence, this acquaintance is also Wada’s connection in London, and both she and Nick are thrown into the plot when the connection doesn’t connect.

So this turns out not to be the Tokyo-set story I was anticipating, but a more international, country-hopping, zig-zagging thriller, which takes us from London to Cornwall, then New York, Rekjavik, Rotterdam, Cambridge… with Nick and Wada independently investigating different ends of the same mystery. It’s an entertaining read, though with an oddly light tone, considering the body count herein. This lightness of tone is also picked up in the cover design, with its quirky font, and all-in-all there’s a mismatch between the marketing and the contents, so that you end up feeling the publisher didn’t know how to pitch this.

There’s also a climate crisis angle, which is unexpected, and which also seems to have nothing to do with the novel’s cute title, which in the end doesn’t have much to do with anything. Wada is introduced as the kind of person you don’t notice, but then everybody seems to notice her, so the title really doesn’t work.

All of that mismatching makes this interesting, because it reflects the two narrative strands, with two protagonists, one of them very aware of what the bad guy is capable of, and the other thinking that he’s tidying up some loose family ends. So it works, if you like, because it does not work.

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