The Kamogawa Food Detectives

Putnam. (Kamogawa Food Detectives, Bk. 1). Feb. 2024. 208p. tr. from Japanese by Jesse Kirkwood. ISBN 9780593717714. $25. F
Published in Japan in 2013 to great acclaim, each chapter of this outstanding novel (Kashiwai’s first to be translated into English) begins with a different character—a policeman, a politician, a piano teacher, an entrepreneur, a housewife, and a restauranteur’s ex-wife—wandering the side streets of Kyoto to find the mysterious and hidden Kawogawa restaurant, which doubles as an agency for “food detectives.” Visitors to the agency express their longing to taste a specific dish from their past. Putting together scant clues and partial memories, it is up to retired policeman and now master chef Nagare Kawogawa and his daughter Koishi to search out and successfully recreate the meal. What ensues is a culinary and cultural exploration of Japanese cuisine. The need to taste a particular dish again is deeply rooted in the desire to relive the past and, in some cases, make amends for mistakes. The novel includes mouthwatering descriptions of food as well as a nuanced description of life in Japan. There’s also a restaurant cat named Drowsy who inserts himself into the mix.
VERDICT Readers will take delight in Kashiwai’s exquisite meals and the culinary history that accompanies them.
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