Monday, 23 July 2018

Sins as Scarlet – Nicolás Obregón


Former homicide detective Kosuke Iwata is on the run from his past. Living in LA and working as a private detective he spends his days spying on unfaithful spouses and his nights with an unavailable woman. Still he cannot forget the family he lost in Tokyo. But that all changes when a figure from his old life appears at his door demanding his help.

Meredith Nichol, a transgender woman and his wife’s sister, has been found strangled on the lonely train tracks behind Skid Row. Soon he discovers that the devil is at play in the City of Angels and Meredith’s death wasn’t the hate crime the police believe it to be. 

This is dangerous territory. But Iwata knows that risking his life and future is the only way to silence the demons of his past.  Reluctantly throwing himself back in to the dangerous existence he only just escaped, Iwata discovers a seedy world of corruption, exploitation and murder – and a river of sin flowing through LA’s underbelly, Mexico’s dusty borderlands, and deep within his own past.


I enjoyed Nicolás Obregón’s debut novel Blue Light Yokohama which was set in Tokyo. and featured Inspector Kosuke Iwata.  You can find my earlier review HERE.

In Sins as Scarlet there have been big changes in the life of Inspector Kosuke Iwata.

He is no longer an inspector with the Tokyo Homicide Department. He’s no longer a Police Detective. Having left Japan in 2011 with almost nothing, he’s now living in Los Angeles and working as a private investigator, mostly providing evidence of cheating husbands and wives to his clients. He has also reconnected with his mother Nozomi although the relationship still seems a bit distant and a lot of things are left unsaid. You get the feeling Iwata is fairly self-contained.

When his late wife’s mother comes into his office demanding that Iwata investigates her son’s recent murder, he feels he has no choice but to investigate. Julian had transitioned into Meredith years before and the Police were treating it as just another hate crime, saying terrible things about Meredith and basically doing nothing.

The investigation takes Iwata into some dark, dangerous and violent places and also
across the US – Mexican border. He uncovers crimes involving more missing transgender women and is taken into a world of corruption, exploitation and human trafficking and puts himself in extreme danger.

As well as the present day investigation, we’re also taken back to Tokyo 1975 to learn of his mother’s story and everything she endured; how she came to abandon Iwata in a Japanese orphanage and then came back to get him with her new husband years later. I liked this as it filled in a few things that were hinted at in the earlier book. We also got a little bit of Iwata’s back story and what happened to his wife and child and I think this helped explain some of Iwata’s issues and later actions.

It’s quite a complex, layered story. At times there was more violence and brutality than I would normally want to read about but I find Iwata quite a compelling character. He’s tenacious and a skilled detective but also very self contained and reluctant to let people get too close but by the end of the book I thought I could see a hint of some softening at the edges.

If there’s a third book in the series I suspect we might find a slightly different Iwata.
[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a digital review copy.]