Book review: 『七回死んだ男』by Yasuhiko Nishizawa

Cover of 七回死んだ男. The cover illustration is very dark and it’s only possible to make out some lights and buildings by night.
Title: 七回死んだ男 (ななかいしんだおとこ)
First published: 1995
Page Count: 391

This book combines a murder mystery and a time loop, and I was very excited to read it. The setting is the classic inheritance setting: family gathering, family members with complex and painful relationships, a lot of money, an old patriarch who is about to write his will… and the time loop.

Our narrator has a condition that makes him relive the same day eight times. And what if the day in question is the day of a murder? The premise of the story sounded so intriguing and promising, yet I ended up being disappointed with this book. I’m not saying that it’s not good, but it’s not my kind of book.

First of all the tone of the novel is much lighter than what I expected. I did not find it funny, but some scenes looked like they were coming from a comedy instead of a mystery novel.

Then the decisions of our protagonist are so weird. I don’t think he takes a single decision that made sense to me. Instead of actually doing things that could prevent the murder, it feels like his goal is to waste every day/opportunity he has so that the story can go on.

Finally, the time loop mechanism is rather complex, and the novel takes a lot of time to explain it to the reader. Sometimes I felt like the author did not trust us to understand or follow by ourselves, which led to lengthy explanations that I found unnecessary and tedious to read.

The novel also has a big twist for us, but the problem is that it was very obvious very early in the novel. I knew exactly what was going to be revealed, and I knew exactly what would trigger the comprehension for our protagonist.

To sum up, I really love the idea of a time loop in a murder mystery, but I wonder if it is even correct to call this book a murder mystery. There is no investigation, no case and no detective. The best way to describe this book might to say that it is a time loop novel and to spice things up, there is a murder. What I wanted to read was a detective novel where the time loop would help or complicate the investigation.