Hideo Yokoyama is a Japanese mystery novelist. He has three novels translated into English: Six Four, Seventeen, and Prefecture D. Actually only two novels since Prefecture D is a short story collection. What makes Yokoyama’s book interesting is he never put crime in the main spotlight. Instead, his book always highlights political and power struggles within a Japanese institution, whether it’s the police or newspaper agency. Another characteristic of his novel is almost all his characters are broken at some point. You can see their internal conflict while solving or dancing around a crime. Yokoyama greatly portrays there is no definitive right or wrong in the world in his novels.
This is the first Yokoyama book I read. It follows a police department in prefecture D upon a kidnapping that occurs in 1989. The police were not successful, as you can read in the synopsis, the girl died at the end. This failure is just the beginning of 64, because, for the next 14 years, the police receive harsh treatment from the public because of their failure. The novel follows Mikami, the Press Director of the police station. Because of the 64 case failure, the reporters hold unreasonable power over him. While balancing demands from his superiors and the press, Mikami stumbles on old notes from the 64 case, and he begins to pursue it. What makes the story interesting is among the daily chaos, there is another kidnapping that occurs in the area, eerily similar to 64. Also, Mikami’s daughter has run away from home. He doesn’t know whether his own daughter is alive or not. This makes the perfect internal dilemma that follows Mikami while he tries to solve the 64 case.
This novel gives you a detailed look at office politics in a police department in Japan. It is so real that I’m sure the internal conflicts happened in real life too. The way Yokoyama meticulously described the characters’ feelings and how he builds up the story to the ending is superb. The ending itself may not be well received, as you can see from my rating. But this book is still a great book to read, it will give you further knowledge on seniority and bureaucracy in Japan (or Asian countries) works.
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
This book follows Kazumasa Yuuki, a senior reporter at the North Kanto Times in Gunma prefecture. While planning on a climbing trip with his best friend, a major air disaster occurs on the paper’s doorstep. Yuuki was appointed as desk chief for the disaster. It lasts only seven days but those days changed his life forever. It even took him 17 years to truly move on, by conquering his other fear, climbing mt. Tsuitate.
The premise is interesting, you will get an overview of how a newspaper agency works in the 1980s. We’re talking about an era without smartphones and internet connections here. As the crash site is in the mountain, the reporters will need to climb the mountain and back as fast as they could to report the news via a public phone. Not to mention, the mountain is full of scattered human bodies and airplane parts. For me, Yuuki’s decision-making and leadership are questionable at times. But, if you are familiar with Japanese (or Asian) culture, you will understand the power struggle and seniority runs deep. During these seven days, Yuuki faces a lot of moral dilemmas, and it is quite interesting to see his decisions at the end of the day. However, one thing that refrains me to give 5 stars is I cannot feel connected to all the characters. No one is likable to me, so I find myself not rooting for anyone.
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
A collection of four novellas set in the same world as Six Four. All centering on various officers from various divisions in a police agency. I like all the power struggles, saving face, finding dirt, and fighting someone within your own rank in the police department. It seems real and shows a lot of politics that happened inside the police department. The length is also perfect to read in one sitting. There are terms that need reread to understand what it means though. Reading this will give you a detailed view of how each division works in a police department, and how often they clash against each other. What makes me rated it 4 stars? Well, if you search for a satisfying ending, well these novellas don’t have that. Some of the endings get a push-under-the-rug treatment and the characters simply move on.
SEASON OF SHADOWS
“The force could lose face . . . I want you to fix this.” Personnel’s Futawatari receives a horrifying memo forcing him to investigate the behavior of a legendary detective with unfinished business.
CRY OF THE EARTH
“It’s too easy to kill a man with a rumor.” Shinto of Internal Affairs receives an anonymous tipoff alleging a Station Chief is visiting the red-light district - a warning he soon learns is a red herring.
“It was supposed to be her special day.” Section Chief Nanao, responsible for the force’s 49 female officers, is alarmed to learn her star pupil has not reported for duty and is believed to be missing.
“We need to know what he’s going to ask.” On the eve of a routine debate, Political Liaison Tsuge learns a wronged politician is preparing his revenge. He must now quickly dig up dirt to silence him.
Rating 4 out of 5
A writer | researcher | lecturer who also a tech-addict and internet-junkie