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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When crime-fiction approaches literary fiction: Six Four

I was drawn to the 2012 Japanese crime novel Six Four, by Hideo Yokoyama, by the glowing front-page NYTBR review a few weeks back; I don't usually read crime fiction, but this one seemed to be a big step above the standard police procedural, the investigation led by an eccentric cop/detective/investigative journalist with quirks, failings, flaws, and enough personality to drive a series of novels. This novel has grander aspirations - reminded me a little from the outset of Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, a novel not about a crime per se but about the nature of criminality and justice and the effect of a crime on individuals and on a whole community. (These are elements you'll see in the great currently running series, American Crime, btw). So how does it hold up to expectations? Well, it's long, as advertised, about 600 large pages w/ dense type! In the time it will take me to read this I could be reading Crime and Punishment. And it got off to a slow start. The novel centers on a police officer, Mikami, who has served most of his career as a detective but has recently been transferred to "media relations" (a position I know well). This transfer seems to him a demotion, but he's trying hard to improve relations w/ the press. Here we see one of the differences between Japanese and U.S. culture; the 13 reporters that cover the police in this unnamed city outside of Tokyo are pushing the police to release the name of someone in an accident report. The police refuse, and the reporters threaten to send an official protest to the police captain. To everyone involved, this is a huge deal - whereas in the U.S. it would be a waste of everyone's time, to put it mildly. For a while, I thought I wouldn't read this novel for more than a day, as much of the early going concerns internal politics in the PD, about which I cared not at all. But there are two other plot strands: first, Mikami's adult daughter has disappeared, and there's a nationwide search for info about her. Second, a major unsolved kidnap-murder case is nearing its statute of limitations, and the police are pushing for more info before the case is dead; Mikami was a detective involved in the original investigation. I have to say this novel has grown on me and I'll continue w/ it as long as it holds my interest. It doesn't seem like great literature - the writing is smooth and efficient but hardly probes the interior life of the character and leaves the settings bland and abstract, the City of D as it's called could be anywhere in Japan - but the complex web of the plot is drawing me in.

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