The novel quickly establishes its gritty crime credentials with protagonist Police Press Director, Yoshinobu Mikami, sent to inspect the dead body of a young woman who may or may not be his own missing teenage daughter Ayumi. This comes at a time when his own police unit are called to re-examine a unresolved kidnapping case from some years ago that involved the death of another young girl following a botched ransom attempt.
Six Four is packed full of enough characters, plot detail and despair that you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was translated from Swedish. Yokohama understands the crime genre and delivers a hard-boiled page turner that's equal to Steig Larsson or Arne Dahl.
That said, its the unique Japanese context that sets this book apart. The clipped and concise prose leaves no room for hyperbole and the emotional austerity between Mikami and his wife is minimal in the extreme. Jonathan Lloyd-Davies' translation appears completely at ease with Japanese nuance whilst at the same time taking us, the English reader, by the hand through the idiosyncrasies of J-lit.
The crux of the novel is concerned with mistrust within Police departments which stems mostly from professional curtesy and the tendency to completely respect seniority at work. Further still are other complex social strata between officers who competed in Kendo as juniors. Martial Arts spilling into their careers with bamboo swords and armour replaced by mobile phones and suits. For a culture concerned with social etiquette and privacy, the silent phone calls that torment a number of the characters is especially chilling as is the mystery around the 'Koda memo'.
Though the narrative takes place over only one week Six Four is a long novel that probably includes one too many similarly named characters but this a better than average slice of crime fiction thats so Japanese you can taste the burning incense. Give the Nordic noir a break and look East.
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama, published by Quercus, 599 pages