Book review: 『プレゼント』by Nanami Wakatake

Title: プレゼント
First published: 1996
Published: 1998
Format: Bunko
Series Number: 1
Page Count: 314
This book is a collection of 8 short stories featuring Akira Hamura and detective Shuntaro Kobayashi. Each short story features alternatively one of the two characters except for the last one when they meet. Nanami Wakatake has written several series of mystery novels, including the Akira Hamura (葉村晶シリーズ) series and the Mikoshiba series (御子柴くんシリーズ). 『プレゼント』 is classified as the first book of the Akira Hamura series, but in reality, it is also the first book…

I really wanted to love this book, but I only started to appreciate it towards the end, and never felt really interested in the characters or the cases presented.

I chose to read this book because I plan on reading the whole Akira Hamura series. As a result, I was particularly interested in the short stories featuring Akira Hamura, but in the end, I ended up liking the Shuntaro Kobayashi ones most.

The stories with Akira are told from Akira’s perspective using the first-person pronoun, whereas the Shuntaro ones use the third person pronoun and are told from the perspective of someone related to the case. Shuntaro usually only makes a brief appearance towards the end.

Despite following Akira directly, I never felt close to her nor could I really understand her personality or feel any sympathy for her. I just cannot understand why she acts like she does, this character completely puzzles me. For now, she is not the kind of character I would happily spend 7 books with… this is just the first book though, so things might change.

I also did not particularly like the author’s style. For example, I found that it takes a while at the beginning of each story before the reader can understand what is going on. It is hard to describe what exactly bothered me, but I had the feeling that the narration would always describe first and explain after. For example, you will first go through an entire dialogue without really knowing what is going on or who the persons talking are. Only after the dialogue would and explanation be given. I found it very strenuous to read, especially because these were short stories. I found that I always struggled a bit to get a good vision of the setting at the beginning of each story, and it took me a while to start feeling involved in the case and the characters involved in it. When i finally did, the 30 pages long story was generally over 😅

Overall, I wanted to read this book first because it is the first of the Akira Hamura series, but now I think that I would have enjoyed it more if I had already read books of the series and were familiar with Akira. The problem is that this book introduces two different detectives who only have 4 short stories each, and I feel that it was not enough to really get to know them. My favourite story is the last one where they are both featured. It’s only at the end of the book that I started to get used to the author’s style and to appreciate the characters.

I have the next book of the series because I bought it together with プレゼント, so I am not giving up yet!