Book review:『殺意という名の家畜』by Tensei Kono

Cover of the book “satsui to iu na no kachiku”. The cover is very plain, just two horizontal red stripes at the top and bottom. The rest is beige with the title and name of the author written in black. It looks like a generic cover for a digital edition.
Title: 殺意という名の家畜 (さついというなのかちく)
First published: 1963
Published: 2014
Format: Digital
Page Count: 289
Before disappearing, Miki Hoshimura called Shinichi Okada, a writer, saying that she needed to talk to him. She has also left a message in his mail box… When Okada learns that Miki’s boyfriend is also looking for her, he decides to investigate her disappearance.

I am sure that『殺意という名の家畜』is a great story if you like hardboiled novels, but as someone who does not enjoy this genre, I fand it hard to feel interested in the characters’ fate, and I was not invested in the case. Characteristics of the genre like action, fast pace and fast dialogues are also not what I prefer reading when it comes to crime fiction.

What bothered me the most is that we don’t really understand why our protagonist, who is a writer, starts investigating the disappearance of a woman he only met once in his life. I wish that the novel had given us some reason to be interested in the case and the missing person. As it stands, we barely know the missing woman, she is just a name and remains so for most of the novel.

We dig into people’s past, but we don’t really know them, the novel does not gives us an opportunity to care about the different characters involved in the case. The investigation was fast paced and not bad, but if I don’t care about the characters, I generally find it hard to care for the investigation.

I also did not like how the novel was narrated. Often, we would start a new chapter with our protagonist going somewhere and giving a description of the place first. The explanation as to why he is there and what we are looking for would only come after the action has started. Obviously, it is possible to guess beforehand if you are an attentive reader, but I just don’t really like this style of narrative. I wish there were more reflexions from the protagonist between different parts and actions where he would reflect on the information we have obtained and decide the next course of action, instead of just doing it with the reader following as an outside spectator. But I guess that jumping from scene to scene without long reflective developments in between is part of the genre.

Finally, I did not like the protagonist, but this is generally true of hardboiled protagonists in general, so I was not surprised.

I have enjoyed reading other winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that were labelled hardboiled (背いて故郷 in particular, but also カディスの赤い星), but 殺意という名の家畜 did not work for me.