Book review: 『罪の声』 by Takeshi Shiota

罪の声 (つみのこえ)
Title: 罪の声 (つみのこえ)
First published: 2016
Published: 2019
Format: Bunko
Page Count: 544
Eiji Akutsu, journalist for the Dainichi Shimbun, is asked to work on the old Gin-Man case, a 30-year-old extortion case that targeted the firms Ginga and Mando among others. At the same time, tailor Toshiya Sone makes an unsettling discovery in his late father's belongings, showing that his family might be implicated in the case...

This novel is inspired by the Glico Morinaga case, an extortion case that targeted several confectionery industries in 1984-1985 and remains unsolved today. I don’t know the details of the real case, but I believe that the novel follows the Glico Morinaga case very closely, changing only the names of the targeted firms.

A film adaptation came out on October 30th.


I loved this book, and it is one of my favourite reads this year!

I was very anxious when I started it, because I knew nothing of the Glico-Morinaga case, and I feared that the story would be hard to follow as a result. It was not the easiest read for sure, but the book does not require the reader to have a previous knowledge of the real case as the author goes through each step of the case in sometimes quite lengthy descriptions!

Nevertheless, I guess that this book is even more exciting for those who knew about the case or are old enough to have followed it in the news when it happened. But even without reading the whole Wikipedia page in Japanese about the Glico-Morinaga case, you can at least watch some footage of the time or find pictures online (like the famous fox-eyed man), which makes the whole story feel more real.

In the story, we follow both the journalist and the tailor, and I found the double investigation fascinating. I kept feeling disappointed every time I remembered that this book is actually a work of fiction! It is so realistic that you cannot help but wanting it to be true.

The book is very long, but if it were shorter, it would also be less realistic. Our protagonists are investigating a 30-year-old case with very complex ramifications, so if the book were shorter, it would certainly feel less credible. I saw several reviews in Japanese saying that the book was boring. It sure does not have the quick pace or suspense of a random mystery novel, but I personally found it very engrossing and not boring at all.

I must admit however, that the structure of the book and the way the investigation progresses are very repetitive. Find a lead, talk to someone, which leads to another name, find this person, find new leads, etc. It is very linear without much action, suspense or turnarounds. If the book was not inspired by and closely following a real case, I might not have loved it so much.

Finally, the case is very complex with a lot of names. You have to remember how people are linked to each other and what their role in the story is. Making a simple list of characters might not be enough here. If you are planning on reading this book, I highly recommend that you write down all the names (persons related to the case and persons who provided information) in some sort of diagram showing how the characters are connected with each other and what role they played in the events.

I personally enjoyed this book very much, and I recommend it if you don’t mind a long and rather slow paced investigation work.