I haven’t loved all the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far, but as soon as I started 『蒸発』I knew that this one was a book for me.
The novel starts strong with the seemingly impossible disappearance of a woman in a plane. The book, however, is not as much about mystery than realistic investigation. We follow a police detective and a journalist who investigates for personal reasons. I really liked following these two protagonists, because their way of searching for the truth and the tools they have access to are different. So while they both get closer to finding what they are looking for, they do so from different angles, while the reader has access to the results of both parties.
As a result, this can sometimes lead to repetitive passages and overall, I find the book maybe a little unnecessarily long. I had the feeling that the tension and mystery get a bit diluted by the length of the novel, but that might just be me.
I found that this novel mainly focuses on the “why” rather than who or how. There is also a hunt for finding the culprit and some additional mysteries towards the end, but I personally found that understanding the characters and the reasons behind their actions was the most interesting part of the novel.
Overall, I found this novel a bit too long and repetitive at times, but it is without a doubt one of my favourite prize winners so far. I should not forget that the prize honours the best book of crime fiction a given year and not the best book of the author. So I will read other books by Shizuko Natsuki for sure!