Six Four – Hideo Yokoyama

March 18, 2019 § Leave a comment

First published in Japanese in 2012
Translated into English by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies in 2016

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The week starts on a very sombre note. Mikami is at the mortuary with his wife, here after travelling a long way from their home. They are tired, afraid. They don’t know if they are ready for this, to know if the child under that white sheet is Ayumi, their daughter who has disappeared from home since three months ago. And when they find out it is not, their relief is short-lived. This dead child is not theirs. But that also means they still don’t know where she is.

Mikami is the Press Officer at the Police HQ of Prefecture D. It’s a relatively new position for him, one that he’s not particularly fond of, having been in the Criminal Investigation Department for the majority of his career as a police officer. He doesn’t have the best relationship with his superior, who seems to not trust him; he doesn’t have strong ties with the media, and it’s about to get worse; and his relationship with his wife is strained, especially since the disappearance of their daughter.

Life, as it is right now, doesn’t seem to be working too well for Mikami. And to make matters worse, his arrogant boss has just informed him that he needs to prepare for a huge press event that’s going to happen in just a week from today, and it has got everything to do with the biggest failure of the police force in history. An unsolved kidnapping that ended with the ransom being paid, the child being found murdered, and the kidnapper scot-free.

The Criminal Investigation detectives have a code name for this case: Six Four.

We follow Mikami everywhere for this entire week. We’re with him when he’s fighting with the reporters in the Press Room. We’re with him when he goes home and finds himself walking on eggshells around his wife. We’re with him when he visits Amamiya, the father of the kidnapped child from Six Four. We’re with him when he’s alone, and we hear all his thoughts, often messy, disjointed, and contradictory.

There’s a lot going on all throughout the story. And because we’re constantly by Mikami’s side, it’s almost impossible to not get caught up with his thought process, his emotions, and his deductions of the things that are happening around him. This means that sometimes, he can get a little repetitive. Other times, he is so self-contradictory that I wonder if he even knows what he’s thinking! And then I realise that I think like that all the time, too. I think one thing, only to contradict myself one second later. I pull myself apart overthinking minute details. And the mild irritation that I feel coming to the surface just dissipates.

Because Mikami has become a real person.

This story is every bit a crime thriller, as it is a study in Japanese police politics. At the same time, it also has a strong human side, a gentle insight into the hearts of parents and their love and attachment to their children. There is heartbreak and loneliness. There is also bravery and solidarity.

There’s a lot going on in this book. And I think Yokoyama did a good job at tying it all together.

**********

Read as part of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 12.

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