Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Japanese crime

I have recently come across some crime stories written by Japanese authors.  I first read a book called "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders" by Soji Shimada and published in 1981. My impression was that this was one of the earliest Japanese crime stories, so I guess I was beginning at the right place.  Its format was very unusual - more of a puzzle than a story by Western reckoning.  It came with illustrations of crime scenes and other visual clues, and the reader was openly invited to work out who the murderer was.  You are even told that all the clues are present in order to solve the puzzle.  A sort of super Sudoku in a way!  I was intrigued.
My next excursion was a more recent novel, originally published in Japan in 1999, though it didn't appear in the UK until 2015.  It is "Journey Under the Midnight Sun" by Keigo Higashino.  This is in a more recognisable format to Western readers than Shimada's, with characterisations and complex story lines.  I confess I got a little lost with the Japanese names, confusing some characters.  But no more so than when I am reading some Scandi noir!  A little concentration and flicking back through pages is all that is required.  This novel is definitely in that category of 'unputdownable' reads.  Stretching over twenty years, it tells the tale of the murder of a pawnbroker, and the persistence of an Osaka police detective obsessed with solving this case.  The personal lives of those involved branch out from the original murder, and the book tells how they are affected by the incident.  It is still quite clue led, like its predecessor "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders", but is much more full of insight into the individuals concerned.  It's not so much a 'whodunit' than a how and why in the American tradition.  Read it for yourself.
Oh, and did I solve the puzzle of the "Tokyo Zodiac Murders"?  No, but then I was never any good at Sudoku either.