Book review:『チョコレートゲーム』by Futari Okajima

Cover of チョコレートゲーム. The focus of the cover image is a small desk and two chairs facing the desk, typically the kind that are used in classrooms. On the table there is some kind of board game involving chocolate bars. There are also bank notes and chocolate around it.
Title: チョコレートゲーム
First published: 1985
Page Count: 320
Yasuhiro Chikauchi is not a good father. Writer for a magazine, he spends most of his time in his study and has very limited contacts with his teenage son, Shogo. So when Shogo starts acting strangely, Yasuhiro finds it difficult to understand him. But when murder occurs at Shogo’s school, Yasuhiro becomes more and more concerned and starts his own private investigation while the police also makes rapid progress.

This book is the definition of a page-turner. The pace is fast, there is always something happening and each scene allows the case to progress. The book just does not let you put it down, it is also relatively easy to read and it only took me three days to finish.

When I started it, I did not think that I would like it so much. Looking at the summary, the plot seemed a little obvious and I felt that I have read this kind of stories several times before. But the plot turned out to be more complex than I thought and the story only gets better and better as we get closer to the truth. The end is also very good.

Another thing that I loved is that we follow both the police and Yasuhiro in alternate chapters. This is a classic structure, but it works very well. Police officers and the father have obviously different ways of leading their inquiries, and what they each find might lead them to different conclusions. As a reader, we get access to both and we can try to build our own picture of what happened.

The topic of the father trying to understand his son reminded me of Gaku Yakumaru’s novels, but the genre is different. I find that Yakumaru’s novels are more realistic and focus more on the relationship between the characters, whereas 『チョコレートゲーム』is pure entertainment that revolves entirely around the case and the mystery.

I am happy that this book won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and I recommend it! I will definitely read the authors’ other books! (Futari Okajima is the pen name of two authors.)

Other books by this author:
解決まではあと6人 (かいけつまではあとろくにん)
99%の誘拐 (きゅうじゅうきゅうぱーせんとのゆうかい)
焦茶色のパステル (こげちゃいろのぱすてる)
Cover of 七年目の脅迫状. Illustration: a brown horse is grazing on a green background.