Book review:『内部の真実』by Jokichi Hikage

内部の真実 (ないぶのしんじつ)
Title: 内部の真実 (ないぶのしんじつ)
First published: 1959
Page Count: 260
Taiwan 1944. Sergeant major Toma is found dead and private Nagura has been knocked unconscious in the courtyard of a Taiwanese woman they were both in love with. Looking at the scene of the crime, the guns found and the evidence gathered, the case looks quite simple. However, some details don’t match, and corporal Katsunaga won’t rest until he finds the truth.

This book is a mystery novel set in Taiwan, similarly to 応家の人々, which I read first. The way 応家の人々 portrayed the South of Taiwan under Japanese rule was what made the book so interesting, but I was not convinced by the murder case.

As a result, I was not really expecting much of 内部の真実 in terms of mystery, and I thought it would mainly be a depiction of Taiwan. Well, I was shocked by how engrossing the murder case in this book was. Not only that, but it is definitely one of the best murder mysteries I have read so far.

The setting is a military detachment in Taoyuan, Hsinchu in 1944. It’s not about the war or military activities though, the focus being mainly the murder case which develops into an excellent whodunnit. It is always impressive to read novels that let the reader guess until the end with a very limited cast of main characters. It was not only very engrossing to follow the investigation of corporal Katsunaga, but the author also manages to mislead the reader again and again until the very last pages of the novel! The first half was already excellent, I loved the way the story was narrated, but I also thought that the case would be simple. The second half becomes even more engrossing if possible and keeps the suspense until the end.

I also enjoyed the setting, I have been wanting to read more Japanese novels related to the military, but I usually find this topic a bit hard to read in Japanese. Even though this is not a war novel, it takes place in a small military detachment and most of the characters are officers and soldiers, and it was a good opportunity to me to learn about hierarchy and ranks. It is also relatively easy to read (compared to other military-related novels I have tried to read).

The author also gives vivid descriptions of Taiwan, like how houses are structured, local religion and customs. I found that it was really well blended with the plot, more than 応家の人々.

Overall, I am shocked by how good this novel is. I feel like it should have won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, but given that Jokichi Hikage had already won in the short story category, I guess he was not eligible.

Other books by this author:
狐の鶏 (きつねのとり)