Sunday, January 8, 1995

Inspector Imanishi Investigates

by Seichō Matsumoto

A post-war Japanese crime novel.  Plotwise, it's very complicated and tightly-woven, replete with subtle clues and red herrings. But stylistically, it's plodding. Probably due to the translation, the writing is choppy and repetitive. And perhaps because of the culture, perhaps because of the period, the process of investigation is laughable at times. Examples: the overheard word "Kameda" is instantly assumed - for no apparent reason - to be a person, and the police proceed to look for such a person, assuming he's in Japan; when Imanishi talks to a very guilty-acting suspect, he allows the man to tell the police what he knows the next day, instead of taking him into custody then and there. In short, some of the investigating is carried out as if a retarded and exceptionally naive five-year-old is at the helm. But overall, it comes through with an intricate murder scheme and some subtle police work. And it's also intriguing as a diary of Japanese thought and cultural activity of the time.

three stars

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