Book review:『十字架のカルテ』by Mikito Chinen

Cover of 十字架のカルテ.
Title: 十字架のカルテ (じゅうじかのかるて)
First published: 2020
Page Count: 368
Young psychiatrist Rin Yuge starts working with veteran Kageyama to evaluate people arrested for crimes but who present signs of mental disorder. But someone who has been diagnosed with mental illness cannot be convicted, even for murder, and is placed in hospital to be treated. The novel takes us through several cases tackled by Rin and her mentor.

I was very excited to read this book because I find the topic of retribution fascinating. If someone commits a crime as heavy as murder but is diagnosed with mental illness, there will be no trial and no retribution, leaving unanswered the questions of who will bear the cross of the crime and how the family of the victim will find peace.

These are exactly the questions that torment Rin as she works with patients and helps Kageyama to come to a diagnostic. What I really like in the novel, is that we see Rin evolve, becoming better at her job, while trying to reconcile the patient’s needs with her sense of justice.

The novel is divided into different cases, each the length of a chapter. I found the cases interesting, but also unnecessarily complex. As I said, I find that the novel’s topics are so powerful in themselves, that each case can easily become the starting point for fascinating thoughts and debates. However, it looks like the author wanted to make the cases attractive and engrossing to read, and each story is a little mystery in itself. The truth is never what it seems, the case is always more complex than it looks and knowing whether the patient is genuine or fakes schizophrenia can be become a real challenge for Rin.

Unfortunately, I found that most of the time, all these cases ended up a little bit too farfetched and not very realistic. It feels like the entertaining purpose of the novel took over the realistic or seriousness of the topics it tackles. I think that simpler cases would have had a stronger impact, but maybe I’m wrong.

Overall this was a good book, but I can’t help but feeling a strange distortion between a heavy and important topic and cases that are a bit too farfetched just for the sake of being mysteries.