Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

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Hyped new million-copy shifting crime novel from Japan? Yes please.

Although if I’d known what I was letting myself in for I might not have been so flippant in picking up Yokoyama’s book. Warning: this was a gruelling marathon, not a sprint like most other whodunnits. There are no action sequences or shoot outs. There is a lot of admin. And the pay-off is perhaps even more satisfying for it.

This is an unusual police procedural. The plot centres on the unsolved case of Six Four; a girl ransomed and then brutally murdered years back. So far, so typical, but then there are some cultural specifics.

Our hero Mikami is not the detective, but actually the Director of Media Relations for a prefecture of Japanese Police. He battles administrative politics and unruly journalists, rather than criminals. There are instances of Yakuza, a reclusive son, the strength of corporate hierarchy and ‘saving face’ which all give the novel a uniquely Japanese flavour.

The combination of these unusual elements with the strong universal human emotions when a young girl goes missing is a potent combination. And whilst I can’t tell how faithful it is to the original prose, Lloyd-Davies’ translation is pleasingly crisp and understated.

Read: if you enjoyed the manoeuvring and politics of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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