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Under the Midnight Sun: A Novel Hardcover – November 8, 2016
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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About the Author
KEIGO HIGASHINO is the bestselling, best-known novelist in Japan and around Asia, with numerous television and film adaptations of his work appearing in several languages. He’s the author of The Devotion of Suspect X, the English translation of which was the finalist for the Edgar Award for best novel, and Salvation of a Saint. He lives in Tokyo, Japan.
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The novel begins in Osaka in 1973 when a man is found stabbed to death in an abandoned building. Detective Sasagaki, the lead officer investigating the case, follows several leads and meets two young children: Ryo, the son of the murdered man, and Yukiho, the daughter of one of the murdered man's acquaintances. Ultimately, Sasagaki is unable to solve the murder. The remainder of the novel is spread over the course of nineteen years. Structurally, the novel may seem like a series of short stories at first. Each chapter introduces and goes into the mind of a new character. However, every character is somehow linked to either Ryo or Yukiho and unusually strange crimes continue to occur.
Higashino crafts a very complex and psychological human mystery here. The plot is much darker than his previous translated works but succeeds in allowing the readers to forge an emotional connection with Ryo, Yukiho, Sasagaki and the vast cast of characters introduced over the plot's near two decade span. Readers who pay close attention can solve sections of the chain of mysteries through intuitive reading, which is key as Higashino doesn't spell everything out for his audience. The 539 page length of the novel allows it to strongly develop its characters as well as address thematic ideas of society, pain, guilt, morality, love and humanity from multiple unique perspectives. Beneath its murder mystery exterior, Journey Under the Midnight Sun has a hidden humane heart.
If you are just sitting down to begin this book, let me recommend that you make a cast of characters. Just a few words about each will suffice, and you will be glad you did when the narrative jumps several years and new characters enter the scene. Unless you are very familiar with Japanese names (I am not), you will have to flip back pages all the time to figure out if you've met these new ones before. (It's a safe bet that any character mentioned by name in the book is going to be important enough to write down.) Once I made my list (200 pages into the novel), everything was much easier!
The narrative begins in the 70s and ends 20 years later, with glimpses of the changes of the world in every stop along the way. We see the rise of computers and computer games; the economic boom and the bursting of the bubble; Rubik's Cubes and Super Mario Brothers; and much more. Reading about these was my favorite part of the novel, and I think it's the heart of it, somehow: you don't really get deeply into any one character's head, so you find yourself drawing a portrait of a group of people, seen from outside, moving through time. Perhaps because I am of an age with Keigo Higashino, I remember all these periods very well, and these glimpses called back memories. It was fascinating to see the same trends played out in Japan that I remembered from life in the States.
Higashino is very lucky in his translator. There must be countless times when Alexander O. Smith has to decide how much, if any, explanatory description to give, not to mention when he has to produce realistic slang-laden dialogue from, say, the 1980s. He does a wonderful job: the writing is seamless and the characters have reasonably distinct voices (although, again, individual character portraits are not the strong suit of this novel). An American reader can shoot through this 560-page novel without having to google every 10 pages, and without puzzling over the characters' motivations and attitudes. I think this is largely the result of a superb translation, and I'm glad to see that Smith has translated other Higashino novels too; I will be reading MALICE next, and I can't wait!
But some of the statements seem strange - could it be that some literary beauty is lost in translation?
*Reading on Kindle helps there.
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Like most Higasino novels I've read, this is a twist on mystery.Read more