Imperfect Strangers

An Inspector Inoue Mystery

When President Nomura, head of a small university in Kyushu, the westernmost island of Japan, is found one hot July day with his throat slit in his office, Chief Inspector Inoue of the local Fujikawa police force scrambles to find the killer. The case has curious features. The president’s computer is missing and a porcelain doll has mysteriously appeared on his desk, splattered with Nomura’s blood.

There are also numerous suspects. They include Gerald Hunter, an American missionary who teaches at the college and is bitterly opposed to changes Nomura has been implementing there; Professor Mutsuko Yamamoto, a feminist and colleague who suspects Nomura of sexually harassing undergraduates; and the victim’s own brother, an army officer located at a military base in Fujikawa, who has long despised Nomura for adopting western ways. It transpires, too, that President Nomura, widowed some years earlier, has been having an affair with a young American girl whose boyfriend, Andrew, teaches at the college and was the person who found the body.

The victim had few friends and many enemies. Inoue discovers a web of deceit and self-deception, with nearly everyone involved in the case harboring his own secrets and lies. To arrest Nomura’s killer, Inoue realizes he must take into account problems festering in modern Japanese society, including the Korean fingerprinting issue, the rise in popularity of international marriages and the challenges they raise in what has long been a homogeneous culture, and difficulties Japanese women continue to face within the home and workplace: expected to do most of the housework and routinely paid considerably less than male employees. Inoue faces his greatest challenge, risking professional ruin and personal disgrace, in his race to solve the case.

Imperfect Strangers is as much a dissection of the dark underbelly of Japanese society as it is a thrilling murder mystery.


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