A house burns down in a quiet Setagaya, Tokyo neighborhood. The body found in the charred ruins is identified as that of a young IT entrepreneur recently in the limelight. Detective Kentaro Uesugi (35, male) and his assistant Go Masaki (early 20s, male) investigate. Young medical examiner Karin Kisaragi (early 20s, female) reports no indications of foul play, and witnesses note no suspicious persons coming or going, so the incident is initially investigated as an accidental fire. But Uesugi's instincts as a cop tell him otherwise, and he follows up by questioning the victim's mother, who is an actress; a brother, who is president of a national appliance store chain; and the brother's wife. The sister-in-law soon emerges as a suspect. Convinced that Kisaragi must have missed something in her postmortem, Uesugi shows the complete case file to a more experienced medical examiner and asks for a second opinion. This time the conclusion is death by strangulation: the fire had been set after the fact, in an attempt to cover up the murder. As the investigators follow the trail of clues, past cases with similar signatures come to light in Hakodate and Akita. Piecing together the serial killer/arsonist's psyche and background, they slowly but surely unravel the perfect crime. Two additional installments in the Medical Examiner Series have appeared to date: Ha no kenshin (The Devotion of the Blade) and Mukuro no kairo (Gallery of Corpses).
Masahiko Ueno (1929?) is a medical doctor and a leading expert in forensic medicine. He served as director of the Tokyo Medical Examiner's Office from 1984 to 1989. Since retiring from office, he has been active as an author, lecturer, and TV personality. His published works include Shitai wa kataru (Tales the Bodies Tell) and Kansatsu-i no namida (A Medical Examiner's Tears).