Welcome Rain
Author: Yūko Yuzuki
Specifications: ISBN  978-4087716702
330 pages
13.6 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
Tokyo, 2016
www.shueisha.co.jp/english/
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

The convicted perpetrator of a crime 16 years ago is still serving his sentence when a virtually identical crime occurs, and the detectives who ignored potentially absolving testimony wonder if they sent an innocent man to prison. The fact that one of them has recently retired but is pulled back into his longtime investigative habits largely by a sense of guilt adds an interesting slant, which proves to fit well with author Yūko Yuzuki’s hardboiled style.

On June 15, 2014, a six-year-old girl named Arina has been missing for six days when her naked body is found abandoned in a mountainous section of Gunma Prefecture. The direct cause of death is determined to be suffocation, but there is a tear in her vagina and forensics recovers what is presumed to be the killer’s semen. It appears to be the act of a pedophile. The characteristics of the crime bear a striking resemblance to one that occurred 16 years earlier nearby: a six-year-old girl named Junko was discovered dead after going missing. In that case, a DNA analysis of the semen had become the linchpin in convicting a known sex offender, the 36-year-old Yaegashi. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, where he still remained. Is the Arina case merely a copycat crime? Or were both crimes actually the work of the same man?—in which case Yaegashi was telling the truth when he retracted his original confession, and was wrongly accused.

Detective Tomonori Jinba retired in March after serving 42 years on the prefectural police force, working his way up from beat cop straight out of high school to become a crime-solver in the elite First Criminal Investigation Section. He and his wife have scheduled a pilgrimage, beginning in mid-June, to the 88 temples in Shikoku in memory of the many victims of crimes he had investigated during his career. They are resting at their lodgings after their first day of walking when a report about the discovery of Arina’s body appears on the evening news. Jinba is stunned by how closely the details of the crime resemble those of the Junko case, for which he was one of the lead investigators. He calls the young and energetic Detective Ogata, his former junior colleague in First Criminal, to find out the status of the investigation. Ogata has always held Jinba in high regard, and with the approval of his section head Washio, asks Jinba to act as a consultant on the investigation. Jinba is eager to oblige. As he continues his pilgrimage over the next two months, he receives frequent progress reports from Ogata and plays a key role from afar as the investigation closes in on the perpetrator with many a thrilling twist and turn.

Jinba is driven in part by a desire to atone to Junko. Six months after Yaegashi went to prison, a patrol cop brought in testimony from an elderly man who said he had seen Yaegashi at home at the crucial time. Until this, the lack of an alibi, his prior record, his initial confession (though later retracted), and the DNA evidence seemed to point firmly in Yaegashi’s direction, yet Jinba and the other investigators on the scene had sensed that they were missing something. Jinba immediately reported the new witness’s claim to Washio, and Washio passed it up the chain of command for a decision, only to be told there was no need for further investigation. DNA analysis was still in its infancy at the time and not very reliable. But if the police admitted so in the Junko case, it could have repercussions in any number of other cases that had depended on DNA analysis, and the department would suffer a huge loss of face. The prefectural police brass were moving to protect the organization, and Jinba and Washio had no choice but to fall in line.

Thanks to Ogata’s tireless investigation and several inspired breakthroughs by Jinba, the Arina murder is successfully solved. The keys to breaking the case come from focusing on sex offenders who had recently been released from prison after having been incarcerated shortly after the Junko murder, and the hypothesis that a white van that disappeared must have been transported out of the area by truck. A 42-year-old man named Kabe is arrested for the crime, but the story ends without indicating whether he is also guilty of murdering Junko or, indeed, whether Yaegashi is innocent.