Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hideo Yokoyama's Sixty Four

Hideo Yokoyama's Sixty Four is one of the most unusual police procedural murder mystery books I have ever read. I was intrigued immediately, with the combination of the narrator Mikami's missing daughter and the seemingly cold case of a kidnapping and murder of a 7 year old girl.

My initial excitement slowed down with the slog of Japanese bureaucratic infighting and overly detailed discussion of how the Japanese police function. At page 200 I was almost ready to stop reading, especially as one mystery gets explained solely in terms of bureaucratic infighting. As a reader, I don't care about who is in charge of what in what division. But I wanted to know more about the other mysteries and was rewarded. The book requires some patience, including an avalanche of names, many of them quite similar in English (this is a translation so perhaps it is less confusing in the original). There is a brief list of main characters at the front, which is useful but far from comprehensive.

As you go, you will see how that back story matters to the bigger story about the kidnapping, which is far more interesting and driven by people rather than bureaucracies. I raced through the last 100 pages in particular but my interest had been re-engaged far before that. It's the beginning that requires real patience.

If, like me, you work somewhere in middle management within a large bureaucracy, you can identify with the hard work people do and how they want to do the right thing, how they deal with adversity, how they aspire to show their competence. The very end of the book reflects that as well.

But finally, and more importantly for me, there is real emotion in the book. As the father of two young daughters, I strongly identified with those who had lost theirs. So much of the plot made good sense to me as a result.


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