Home / Books / The Fine Art of Uncanny Prediction by Robert Goddard | Book Review

The Fine Art of Uncanny Prediction by Robert Goddard | Book Review

The readers of layered, complicated mysteries are familiar with author Robert Goddard’s works which have been tantalising readers for many years now. He takes on secrets, myths, rumours and conspiracy theories and weaves those into thrilling reads with characters chasing shadows and danger.


In 2020, he started a new series which is almost a merger of his thrillers with classic detective books and published a mystery, featuring a middle-aged Japanese woman Umiko Wada who prefers to blend in the background. We have reviewed the first series of the book here at Thinkerviews:

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection

And here we have the next book in the series called The Fine Art of Uncanny Prediction.


Book Cover:

Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.

The Fine Art of Uncanny Prediction by Robert Goddard | Book Cover

The Fine Art of Uncanny Prediction by Robert Goddard | Book Cover

The cover page of this book follows the minimalistic theme that was seen on some other murder mystery detective series published in last few years. In some ways it also mirrors the coverpage of the first book in terms of use of red, black and white colours and the fonts used to spell out the name of the book and the author.

A few differences in the details now show the central figure holding a fan and the skyline at the bottom is reminiscent of San Francisco. But it is easy to conclude that the coverpages of this series will continue on this line making these books easy to link for the readers.

Storyline:

Umiko Wada has now embraced her role as the head of Kodaka Detective Agency and continues to provide discreet and excellent service to her clients as a private detective. A new adventure begins when she is approached by a member of construction magnets Jinno family, an estranged father looking for his son Manjiro Nagata. Wada visits Nagata’s apartment which seems to show signs of life a few times a day. However, when she enters the apartment, she discovers it is mechanised blinds, automated lights and tape recorders creating this illusion of occupancy. There is no sign of the occupant.

But the search of this apartment leads her to Daiju Endo, his part in the events during the Fukushima disaster and his fall from grace and disappearance many years after those events. She follows the trail to a secluded property called Matsuda Sanso, and barely escapes the guards here with her life. She literally runs into Troy Kimber who then provides the next link in the chain leading her to San Francisco.

As it happens, in a parallel track, a few decades in the past, we see that Kodaka was also engaged on a similar quest, by the same dangerous villain of the tale, Gora Rinzaki. The common thread here is a woman called Kobe Sensitive. Japan, being the country of frequent earthquakes, has stories about people who can sense earthquakes before they happen. The last known such person is called Kobe Sensitive but she was never found / is dead/ is now in America, depending upon whose version of the story you believe.

What is the secret that has been buried since the end of world war II and is still being chased by so many people? Will Wada have the same fate with her quest as Kodaka did? Not only is she under threat for her life and may not survive this chain of events, but will her family also become the collateral damage?

Views and Reviews:

When I read the first book of the series, the standout point for me was the central character of Umiko Wada. Her resilience, resourcefulness, love for literature and her ability to be at peace with her life. So it was good to see her back again in this second installment, in charge of the operations of this detective agency in Tokyo and her continued success as a private detective and a proprietor. This book shows us the same core of integrity and courage that we have seen before and her acknowledging her sometimes stubborn nature in not being able to leave the problems unsolved:

Failure was inevitable in her profession. Not every inquiry could be resolved to her and her client’s satisfaction. But loose ends troubled her. They offended her orderly mind.

While the last book took Wada to England, the events of this book mostly take place in Tokyo. The secret is dating back to the post World War II Japan and the ashes of destruction that was Tokyo then. Since it has built itself back to the mega city where space is a privilege and at premium. Where people live always surrounded by a crowd and the city becomes as much a part of their lives as friends and family. For Wada though, her solitude is still with her even in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo:

It might have discombobulated many Tokyoites to be in such an isolated spot, but Wada didn’t feel any more alone here than when she was surrounded by thousands of her fellow citizens in the heart of the city. Solitude was for her a state of mind. And it was the one she was best suited to.

But where there are so many humans, there is bound to be crime and struggle for power. And so we have characters like Gora Rinzaki whose character looms over the lives of so many in this book. And so does the presence of major natural disasters including the Kobe Earthquake and Fukushima disaster. Japan also has the fatal streak of the Easterners as we see in last few pages, that sometimes the inevitability of future cannot be thwarted, so you might as well accept what comes your way from nature. The author also continues to weave the subtle patriarchism that is woven through the Japanese culture through Wada’s interactions with other around her and their reaction to her becoming a successor to detective Kodaka.

It is interesting how the author has created two parallel tracks including the adventures of Detective Kodaka in the 1990s and Detective Wada in 2020s. This way, it almost is like having a detective duo which is quite common in detective novels. Amusingly, Kodaka’s tale is told in present tense narrative while Wada’s tale is told in past tense, just giving the book that little twist.

There are many other new characters including Kodaka’s large list of contacts made up of journalists, audio experts, bank officials, etc., each with a weakness that makes the exchange of information mutually interesting. I liked how the ways of the world are captured in just a few sentences below about the workings of the social machinery:

When the government tells you he I and what he says sounds crazy to those of us who aren’t crazy..The normal club rules apply. Embargo the story in exchange for political gossip to fill the newspaper.

And now Wada also interacting with those same contacts who may or may not know more about Kodaka’s past adventures than her. We also see how Kodaka first met Wada and they started working together. She absorbed many lessons from him about detective work, just as she absorbed other principles growing up and living through what life gave her. Here are some interesting one liners that keep coming back to Wada when she is detecting:

You only knew if a lead was a dead end when you reached the end.

If you don’t try to touch the bottom, you wont need to worry about how deep the water is.

We see a bit more of Wada’s family in this book, especially her mother Haha, a strong and compelling woman herself, and how difficult the mother-daughter relationship can be when they are both so much alike. It is the intriguing lodger that her mother takes in that becomes a crucial key turn point in the story.

Wada destroys the secret in the end, so that the victims can all move on with their lives and she returns to hers. The book is light, readable, fast paced and entertaining, but it is rather too neat at the end where suddenly all events are resolved with no significant consequences. However, its not the secret at the centre that holds it together. It is the central character and the life she builds for herself. I enjoyed reading this installment and looking forward to where the author takes Wada next.

There are always more secrets in this world than you imagine, aren’t there?

Summary:

An entertaining installment in the series featuring a Japanese female detective who solves more than a murder mystery and probably will come back for more adventures in the next books by the author…

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 8 stars out of 10.

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Over To You:

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