Japanese Book Review: Wの悲劇 – 夏樹 静子

wnohigeki(w no higeki – Natsuki Shizuko)

I found two more blogs that review Japanese books recently. They are both focused on mysteries, but they mostly review books written in Japanese and update regularly. Reading through some of their posts I learned that there is a lot more to the mystery genre than I realized. I tried reading a book that was reviewed on both My Japanese Bookshelf and ボクの事件簿.

This one seemed interesting because it was modeled after the golden age mysteries of Ellery Queen. Even though I didn’t know about Ellery Queen before reading these blogs, I thought this would be a good introduction to a classic mystery style for someone who wants to read in Japanese.

Meeting my expectations for a classic style mystery, the book is focused on the plot. Even though it is set at Mt. Fuji, it couldn’t be considered a travel mystery, and the character development takes a back seat to the details of the murder and cover up.

At the beginning it seems like all of the details of the murder itself are laid out, and even though I knew there must be something more at the end, I was still not able to guess what happened until it was revealed. Many of the things that seemed out of place durning the story turned out to be clues. I found it impressive how the mystery was solved and enjoyed looking back at how the solution was hidden.

The most challenging part with the language for me was descriptions of trees, and I didn’t actually try to find out the exact trees they were talking about.

Other than that, the narrative is laid out step by step so it’s not too easy to get lost. Also, as mentioned in My Japanese Bookshelf, the plot is re-iterated periodically, so this may be an advantage for readers who are slower because they are not reading in their native language.

I’m not sure when the book was set, but they do have cars and telephones. It was written in 1982. I was shocked that Mako was expected to marry within her family. She was being set up with her great uncle’s son Takuo. That doesn’t seem like something that would happen in modern day, but I may be missing something culturally.

I was surprised to see that the author died just a few months ago. It seems that she was quite accomplished and left many books for the world to enjoy.