Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

As a huge fan of crime fiction, Six Four sounded exactly my cup of tea. The accompanying hype proudly announces that it sold one million copies within six days of release. Combined with the promise of a cold-case kidnapping yielding unexpected results, I anticipated a thrilling page turner full of twists and turns. What I encountered was decidedly not.

I think part of the problem was that my expectations had been built high – the disappointment would have been lessened had I known what I was really getting into. At its heart, Six Four is a novel about police bureaucracy and media relations. And hard as Yokoyama tries, those are difficult topics to make thrilling.

The plot revolves around reluctant media relations officer Mikami and his struggles in the run-up to a visit by the police commissioner. The story crawls along at a glacial pace, as Mikami internalizes, agonizes, and meanders from one tertiary character to another, hoping to catch a break.

As a translated novel, Six Four is steeped in Japanese culture, and it was certainly interesting to read moments such as officers pausing en-route to interview a witness in order to purchase a home-visiting gift. That said, I was a good way into the novel before I stopped tripping over all the names (Mikami, Minako, Mikumo…. and dozens of minor characters who wander in and out to little consequence).

Six Four wasn’t the easiest novel to read, and it also wasn’t a great deal of fun. I normally look forward to long train journeys as an opportunity to get some serious reading done, but I took this on two different trips and wound up spending both staring out the window instead. It’s potentially an interesting study of Japanese policing, if you like that sort of thing, but it’s far from a gripping crime thriller. (Of particular note is the fact that I had to pull out my Kindle and check both the author and main character’s names for the purposes of this review!)

Many thanks to Quercus Books for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

[Read from 29 April-21 May 2016]

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