『天使のナイフ』was first published in 2005. It won the Edogawa Rampo Prize and is Gaku Yakumaru’s first novel.
This is the third book I read by this author. The other two were 『誓約』and 『ガーディアン』.
『天使のナイフ』is a good thriller, I found it entertaining and suspenseful. However, there are one or two things bothered me a little…
First of all, this is a novel about Japanese Juvenile Law 少年法. The Juvenile Law states that juvenile offenders are judged by a family court. Those found guilty are sent to juvenile institutions were they receive education for rehabilitation. Until 2008, when a major offence like murder was committed, the family of the victim did not have the right to know the name of the offender, nor to have any information concerning the court proceedings.
This is a fascinating topic, and I have learned a lot about it through Gaku Yakumaru’s novel. However, I also found that the topic was too present in the book, sometimes introduced in artificial ways. For example, a character would appear and have a discussion with our protagonist about the Juvenile Law. This dialogue’s only purpose is clearly to introduce a debate over the pros and cons of a harsher punishment for juvenile offenders, but it does not bring anything else to the story.
I am perfectly alright with having serious debates in my thriller (though I do buy a thriller for the story, not for academic purposes), but I don’t like when the author wants to talk about a certain topic too much (for example, because he consulted many documents about it and wants to share the maximum of his research with the reader…). I would rather read a good thriller without any special topic in it and a good nonfiction book about Juvenile Law rather than a mix of the two.
The story is so much about this particular law, that I found some parts of the plot unconvincing.
I also found that the story was good enough in itself without a need to include debate between characters. Just reading the story makes the reader go through contradicting conclusions, experience the point of view of each position and create an inner debate. There was no need to do the work for us.
The other thing that bothered me a little is that this novel is very similar to 『誓約』. The story, obviously, is different, but some mechanisms are the same, so it was easy for me to see through it. Unfortunately, I already found these mechanisms a little far-fetched in 『誓約』, so I was all the more unimpressed by it in this novel.
This being said, 『天使のナイフ』remains a good thriller that does its job: it is a page-turner, I was engrossed in the story until the end, and overall, I enjoyed reading it. It is just not my favourite one.