Madoi Shoko graduates from college without a job, and two years of fruitless frantic job hunting leave her penniless and evicted, her parents only willing to take her in if she agrees to an arranged marriage. A desperate appeal to her grandmother lands her a short term position as an assistant to her estranged uncle, a famous mystery novelist. When a homeless "net cafe refugee" friend of his discovers a dead body, Shoko gets wrapped up in a mystery. The refugee detective, it seems, is a police detective so valuable to the force they have kept him on the books for five years, despite his resignation and determined rejection of society.
Most of this was in the solicitation materials for Nisio Isin's first new non-sequel novel in two years. It sounded exactly like the sort of thing he did so well.
The opening thirty pages depicting Shoko's harrowing decline from honor student to eviction really hit a nerve with my own unemployment, echoing a lot of the feelings I have to wrestle with; the first time since the Zaregoto series that Nisio really managed to hone in on something emotionally close to home. I probably should have been worried that this was delivered in a thirty page block of exposition; his tendency to tell rather than show has been a distinct flaw in recent works. But I soldiered happily on through the most boring book he has ever written.
I eventually gave up in the epilogue. I simply could not force myself through the last fourteen pages of this dreary waste of time.
1. The main character has no personality, and plays no part in the story at all.
2. The two male characters' rather unique backgrounds have absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever.
3. The story itself is a listless afterthought, a plot that could have been machine generated for all the interest he shows in making it dramatic.
Which leads to the question -- if the plot, characters, and thematically suggestive character backgrounds are all of no interest to Nisio Isin whatsofuckingever, then why in God's name did he write this fucking book?
4. It's an attempt to go mainstream. There are no light novel/manga inspired fantasy elements, no pop culture references, no obscure gags, no elaborate wordplay, no delving into quirky personal obsessions, no cunning bait and switch on reader's expectations...in other words, his idea of writing a book for an ordinary audience is to remove all of the things that make him worth reading, all of the things that anybody has ever liked about his novels, and he ends up with a fucking overpriced hardcover volume of utterly lifeless, boring, dead, useless words arranged into a shell of a story that nobody with a fucking pulse would want to read.
It's an apocalyptically bad book, and I can't help but take it as a sign that he has completely lost his path as a writer, and is hopelessly incapable of self-evaluating his own output. It genuinely pains me to write this, but Refugee Detective was so utterly worthless I don't believe I'll be able to buy any future novels by someone who used to be my favorite author without reading reviews first.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get drunk and cry myself to sleep.