For five days in January 1989, the parents of a seven-year-old Tokyo schoolgirl sat and listened to the demands of their daughter’s kidnapper. They would never learn his identity. They would never see their daughter again. In the fourteen years that followed, no one would forgive them for what became known as ‘Six Four’, a botched investigation. This follows a man’s search in this case, and how that links to a disappearance that’s more personal.
You see the words ‘crime’ and ‘thriller’ and you think it will be a fast paced unravelling of a crime, bit by bit clicking into place. Alas, this is an entirely different animal. Translated from Japanese, this is a slow burn of a book that explores more the politics of the Japanese police and press system than it does the crime, looking more at the people than for potential suspects.
But it’s a slow burn that does get somewhere, a wild case that relies on some of what can trip you up as a reader. Names are very similar (this may be heightened by the translation, I can’t say!) and it’s easy to blur them into one another, so these 600+ pages require you to pay attention with a fine comb to avoid mixing one up with another. A lot of the time, there’s subtle hints at something before the character thought-splains it, or the narrator just lays it out there, covering in fine detail the thought process that you were already getting to.
If you can make it through the first 400 or so pages of politics and power plays, it does really start to up the ante. What seems like disparate bits and bobs throughout come together in a strangely clever way once you get your head around the who’s who. Whether many people will make it that far though, I can’t say for sure. It is a lot of work, and not a book that’s for the leisurely, light-read days.
3rd March 2016 | Quercus Books