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Six Four: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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"A real, out-of-the-blue original. I’ve never read anything like it. Yokoyama [is] a master.”? ―Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review (front cover review)
“Absorbing . . . Six Four is an intensely complicated work, fleshed out by dozens of well-sketched characters, filled with changing perceptions and surprising twists . . . Its rewards are commensurate: unexpected revelations and quiet instances of human connection.” ―Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
“Six Four avoids every crime-fiction cliché. The reward is a gripping novel . . . Complex, ingenious and engrossing . . . strikingly original . . . Jonathan Lloyd-Davies has translated Six Four with unobtrusive brio . . . Yokoyama possesses that elusive trait of a first-rate novelist: the ability to grab readers’ interest and never let go.” ―Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post
“A profoundly odd and fascinating crime novel . . . Although Six Four builds to a nifty ending, it has more things on its mind than just catching the killer. This offbeat police procedural offers an unforgettable portrait of bureaucratic Japan and reaches for something more metaphysical in its sense that the meaning of things remains elusive, even when the crime is solved.” ―John Powers, NPR, “Fresh Air”
“Already a bestseller in Japan and the U.K., this cinematic crime novel suffused with fascinating cultural details follows a police department reinvestigating a chilling kidnapping that stumped them 14 years earlier.” ―Entertainment Weekly, The Must List
“Six Four arrives in America as one of the most anticipated titles of the year . . . Yokoyama’s novel is a Jenga tower, each plot point and peripheral character part of an intricate balance . . . What is perhaps most striking about Six Four is the number of stories it contains.” ―Dotun Akintoye, O: The Oprah magazine
“Six Four makes its U.S. debut four years after it came out in Japan, where it was a literary blockbuster. The book sold more than a million copies and was adapted both for film and for TV. Part of its appeal was the way it illuminated the country’s deep tradition of hierarchy and control." ―Sarah Begley, Time magazine
"Not only is Six Four an addictive read, it is an education about Japan, its police and its society, and simply one of the best crime novels I have ever read." ―David Peace, author of GB84 and The Damned Utd
"A classic plot [which] suddenly turns into one of the most remarkable revenge dramas in modern detective fiction…[It] will leave even the most observant reader gasping." ―The Sunday Times
"Epic in ambition, [Six Four] unfurls like a flower in the spring sunlight, steadily increasing its grip as it does so." ―Daily Mail
“Hideo Yokoyama’s Six Four, translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, is by no means just another mystery novel, but rather an award-winning cultural phenomenon on the scale of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy . . . There is a lot of buzz around this book, all of it well deserved . . . Yokoyama’s prose is crisp and skillfully translated; the plot . . . is thoroughly believable and compelling.” ―Bruce Tierney, BookPage (Top Pick in Mystery)
“Extremely detailed style and carefully wrought characters. Six Four succeeds on several levels: as a police procedural, an incisive character study, and a cold-case mystery.” ―Jane Murphy, Booklist
“[Six Four] takes leisurely twists into the well-kept offices of Japan’s elite while providing a kind of informal sociological treatise on crime and punishment in Japanese society, to say nothing of an inside view of the police and their testy relationship with the media. Elaborate, but worth the effort. Think Jo Nesbø by way of Haruki Murakami, and with a most satisfying payoff.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Hideo Yokoyama was born in 1957. He worked for twelve years as an investigative reporter with a regional newspaper north of Tokyo before becoming one of Japan’s most acclaimed fiction writers. His exhaustive and relentless work ethic is known to mirror the intense and obsessive behavior of his characters, and in January 2003 he was hospitalized following a heart attack brought about by working nonstop for seventy-two hours. Six Four is his sixth novel, and his first to be published in English.
Jonathan Lloyd-Davies studied Japanese at the University of Durham and Chinese at Oxford. His translations include Edge by Koji Suzuki, with cotranslator Camellia Nieh; the Psyche Diver trilogy by Baku Yumemakura; Gray Men by Tomotake Ishikawa; and Nan-Core by Mahokaru Numata. His translation of Edge received the Shirley Jackson Award for best novel. Originally from Wales, he now resides in Tokyo.
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Now, that said, I CAN see why Quercus decided it needed to liven up Six Four a bit. This is 600 pages or so of detailed police work. All the characters' names seem to start with A or T (with some M's thrown in for variety), so unless you are very familiar with Japanese names, you have to read carefully. (I finally made a cast of characters about halfway through, which helped a lot. Reminded me of all those nicknames in Russian novels, which can be so confusing for the non-Russian reader.)
If you are accustomed to hard-boiled or cynical American and British police procedurals, you will be surprised and fascinated by Six Four. The traditions, attitudes, and methods of work are wildly different. I was intrigued. There is an absence of cynicism which is kind of incredible. Oh, you still have disenchanted cops and ridiculous protocols and needless paperwork, but it's all done from a position of earnestness that is unlike anything you will read (or at least that I have read!) in western literature. Japan is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
This is a novel that demands full attention -- you can't be reading a chapter at bedtime along with one or two other books and expect to retain the plot details -- yet is exhausting in large doses. But I mean that in a good way; it is meticulous, and there is a real mystery to be solved, along with side mysteries that do not get resolved, or at least not in the way we may be used to. I felt as though I were getting an honest and unsentimental look at the way the police really might operate, and I thought that was invaluable.
I would recommend this book to hardcore mystery, thriller, and police procedural fans who don't mind getting in and digging deep. Six Four will not be rushed, and it will not enthrall you with knives at the throat or trusted lovers and friends who turn out to be master criminals. All the better, in my opinion.
This novel also has many characters - way too many. The plot centers around a 14 year old kidnapping which remains unsolved and that could have been a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, there is a second and even a third plot woven into the story, one of which might have been an interesting thread were it not for the other. Mikami, the central character, has been removed from his position in Criminal Investigations and made Press Director for the police. Mikami has personal reasons for remaining in his post as press director, a position for which he has no training and hates. His daughter, Ayumi, has run away from home and he wants to insure that the police and the press keep looking for her.
However, much of this long novel is given over to the fighting between Mikami and the press. There are multiple scenes, all of which are threats by the press and attempts by Mikami to keep the press from speaking directly to anyone but he and his staff. These scenes lend heft to the book but add so little to the plot that, well written as it is, it was impossible to give this book the truly positive review I expected to write. It is as though this book could not decide whether it wanted to be a crime novel or a novel about the conflict between the press and the police so it went with both.
Much of what is learned about the kidnapping is anticlimactic and, all in all, this was a disappointment.