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Book Recommendation: Five Decembers


Here’s my first book recommendation of 2023: 


The book is Five Decembers by James Kestrel, or 真珠湾の冬 (Winter in Pearl Harbor) in Japanese. 


This Hayakawa pocket mystery book was published in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic and was translated into Japanese in December 2022. Five Decembers won Best Novel in the 2022 Edgar Awards. 


The Japanese title immediately sold me; winter in Pearl Harbor, where it’s summer all year? I was intrigued. 

The story follows the murder of a Japanese woman in Hawaii just before the Pearl Harbor Attack. Pursuing the murderer, the detective travels from Hawaii to Hong Kong through Midway, Wake, Guam, and Manila.


Like Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet,” “Four Signatures,” or “Detective Le Coq,” it follows an A-B-A storyline in which 

The crime occurs, an investigation begins, different stories connected to the crimes emerge, and finally, the crime is solved.  


In his novel, Kestrel beautifully depicts pre-war Hawaii and Hong Kong. 

He also accurately captures Japan’s pre and post-wartime situation, when the novel briefly connects back to Japan. 


Five Decembers is a truly well-written novel that has me looking forward to reading Kestrel’s future works. 


I recommend reading this book when you feel like indulging in a mystery on a winter night.

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