This is Hideo Yokoyama’s first novel to be translated into English. He is an immensely popular crime writer in Japan.
It is a long read and a slow burner. It certainly isn’t an atypical crime thriller, in fact it appears to be more of a political game of chess with the odd crime thrown in.
Bear with it though, because eventually all roads lead to a riveting conclusion.
Mikami struggles with his position and loyalties at work. Once on the straight track to highest ranking in the Criminal Division. Mikami has been side-tracked to the Media Relations department. He spends his days fending off the press and is known, much to his dismay, as the ‘guard dog for Administrative Affairs.’
The bulk of the book is spent analysing the political quagmire of the Criminal Division, Admin Affairs, Media Relations, the press, the Prefectural HQ and the bigwigs in Tokyo. Whilst this is going on Mikami is looking into a cold case, a kidnapping from fourteen years ago. Simultaneously Mikami is also waiting for some sign of life from his daughter Ayumi. She is suffering from mental health issues, which have culminated in a growing hatred towards her parents.
Ayumi’s body dysmorphia is quite fascinating. She hates her own face, despises her mother’s beauty and the fact she has inherited her father’s looks. It isn’t until she leaves that Mikami actually starts feeling self-conscious about his own facial features and becomes insecure about being able to snag such a beautiful wife.
While the majority of the book is a perpetual cat and mouse game of internal politics, the cold case remains an integral part of the story. The errors made by individuals are still causing a wave of backlash even years after the kidnapping.
Amamiya has lost his young daughter, and his wife. It seems almost like an insult to ask him to allow a high ranking police official to use his daughter’s murder as a political platform. It’s up to Mikami to convince Amamiya. Little does Mikami know that the grieving father and widower isn’t quite as docile as he seems.
Yokoyama does a really good job of a literary sleight of hand. The reader is so busy looking in one direction they don’t see what is going on in the background. Interesting read, definitely an author I will revisit.