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Thursday 30 June 2016

‘Six Four’ by Hideo Yokoyama

Published by Quercus
3 March 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-84866 (HB)
978-1-84866-526-2 (TPB)  978-1-78429-984-2 (EB)

Six Four was Japan’s most infamous kidnapping that went wrong, ending in the tortured death of a child. Now Tokyo wants to re-open the case with a visit of the commissioner to the associated sites, including the child’s home – and Mikami, ex-detective transferred to Media Director, has to persuade the father to co-operate. Then there’s another kidnapping.

This summary makes the plot sound snappier than it is. This is a long book, and the first two-thirds focus on Mikami’s own difficulties: reluctantly sidelined from Criminal Division to Media Director, he’s locked in a battle with the press over trust. As he attempts to persuade the kidnapped child’s father to allow the comissioner’s visit, he’s drawn into investigating why the case failed fourteen years ago, and gradually realises that Administrative Affairs and Criminal Division are using Six Four to bring each other down. The second kidnap then happens, and the strands of the plot draw together to the final twist, which gave a satisfying ending, although the key clue didn’t work in translation. To Western eyes, Mikami isn’t as maverick as Rankin's John Rebus, but in his hierarchical society he’s willing to challenge authority, disobey orders and keep asking questions. We also sympathise with his family situation: his daughter is missing, and the only thing he shares with his withdrawn wife, Minako, is their refusal to contemplate her death. Mikami grows in stature through the novel, resolving his personal tension between his former life as a detective and his new posting. He and Minako also come to terms with the loss of their daughter. There are frequent, fascinating snippets of information about Japanese life as well as a clear picture of the completely different police structure. This was a long read, at 634 pages (the back of the book suggests the final printing will be in two volumes, which will be easier to hold) and you might want to make an aide-memoire of the characters as you read – there are a lot of similar names, and a large cast as Mikami moves through the department searching for answers.

A lengthy novel of political intrigue set against Mikami’s need to find his own way once more, and an interesting, in-depth look at Japanese police culture.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Hideo Yokoyama was born 1957. He is known for his career as journalist for the Jomo Shimbun, the regional paper in  Gunma. Yokoyama specialises in mystery novels. In January 2003 he was hospitalised following a heart attack said to have been brought on by working constantly for 72 hours. Six Four is his sixth novel.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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