Japanese fiction holds a strange fascination for me and it was therefore a ‘no brainer’ to buy the newly released English translation of Hideo Yokoyama’s novel ‘Six Four’.
For a start, writers such as Hideo, Natsuo Kirino and Haruki Murakami offer a tantalising glimpse into Japanese society and culture. Novels set in contemporary Japan are, by necessity, going to need to be rooted in their culture. Whilst I can never be sure that we gain all the nuance of the original text, I’m satisfied that it leads the reader into a world which is quite unlike that we experience in Western Europe.
In that sense it is not dissimilar to Science Fiction and, indeed, the names often require similar techniques in order that you might keep track of the characters.
In ‘Six Four’ we track a very short time period with incredible detail and intensity. We follow Mikami, the press director for the regional police as he navigates the, often choppy, and frequently labyrinthine politics and hierarchies of the Japanese police force. It becomes very evident that the Japanese olive system works very differently to our own.
Mikami is challenged with organising a visit from the Tokyo crime commissioner to revisit and give one final push of publicity to the ‘six four case’, a fourteen year old kidnap and murder case during which Mikami had been one of the detectives. The statute of limitations is about to kick in and one final push to solve the crime is required.
At the same time the press are in revolt over ‘anonymisation’ of reports from the police and threaten to undermine the impact of the visit by failing to report upon it.
Mikami begins to unearth some very deep and uncomfortable facts surrounding the case and there this leads to extreme upset in the higher ranks.
The story progresses from there to a final twist which is hard to predict if you are reading the English translation but I wonder if it maybe more obvious if you are reading in Japanese?
This is an excellent crime novel with a great deal to recommend it. I’m looking forward to his other novels being translated soon