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Sins As Scarlet by Nicolás Obregón

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Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
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‘Five years ago, he lost his family. Now he may have found his redemption.’

Sins As Scarlet is the second book from Nicolás Obregón featuring former homicide detective Kosuke Iwata. Just published by Michael Joseph, it has been described by author Jeffery Deaver as a ‘masterpiece, a classic noir, a psychological thriller and a riveting examination – sometimes dark, sometimes moving to the point of tears – of life in a less-than-angelic Los Angeles’.

Nicolás Obregón’s first book, Blue Light Yokohama, set mainly in Japan, garnered some great praise, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of Sins As Scarlet to review.

As I began to read Sins As Scarlet I was immediately immersed in a world that was both frightening and exhilarating. The prologue is set on the Mexican-United States border and the scene described is shocking. I knew from those first few pages that this was going to be my type of of book.

Nicolás Obregón is a writer I was unaware of until recently and I have to ask – why is this? With such a unique approach, his style is reminiscent of another era, yet also very current with the societal issues he deals with. As I researched the author it came as no surprise that Philip Marlowe was an influence from a young age. In reading the book, it was very easy for me to see a Humphrey Bogart type lead playing the role of the main character Kosuke Iwata. He is a man that has a darkness and unease about him, a man with a past. He suffered some great loss in his life, which does unfold with the pages and it is this continued need for righteousness that drives him forward.

No longer a homicide detective, Iwata now runs a Private Investigation business in Los Angeles. He has left his life in the Japanese police force behind and now spends his days in an almost solitary existence assisting his clients with his skills as a Private Eye under the LA sun.

‘Iwata understood the importance of heritage, he just didn’t care much about home or where it could be found; he’d done without for the better part of forty years. Here in California he was Japanese. In Japan, he was an outsider.’

When the body of Meredith Nichol is discovered, the sister of Iwata’s wife and also a transgender woman, Iwata finds himself delving into the underbelly of LA’s darker side for answers.

Nicolás Obregón takes the reader into a very dark world, a place where evil lurks and where hatred and racism is rife. The death of Meredith is initially treated as a hate crime, a crime against the Trans community, but as Iwata soon discovers there is a hidden world where abhorrent and shocking activities are taking place.

Iwata, in his own eyes, has nothing to lose so he jumps right into this warren of evilness with the swagger of one who just doesn’t care anymore. This attitude makes Iwata a very lethal adversary indeed. Iwata is a very complex character and his past follows him wherever he goes. His relationship with his mother is very strained and as the novel progresses we get an insight into her history and the reasons for her difficulties in having a mother-son emotional connection with Iwata.

Obregón has taken Iwata and built a very sophisticated and multi-layered character. There is a great depth to his psyche, with his thoughts and feeling portrayed so powerfully by the author.

When reading Sins As Scarlet I grappled for words to describe the experience but, to be honest, I think Jeffery Deaver’s words are best…‘A Classic Noir’.

Sins As Scarlet is a highly astute and perceptive novel, as the author raises the extremely topical issues of immigration, transgender, corruption, violence, exploitation, murder and of course, human nature. I can honestly say I was quite blown away with the style of writing and, when I read that Obregón is currently researching a possible project based in 1950’s Spain and two further Iwata novels, I just may have done a little dance!

Intense. Harrowing. Riveting.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.