When Shunsuke Honma, a detective recovering from a gunshot wound, is asked by a young relative to try to find his missing fiancee, Shoko, this "simple" request quickly evolves into much more. Honma also finds himself dealing with issues of credit card debt, bankruptcy, identify theft, and possibly multiple murders.
While the reader is pre-occupied with the complications of this fascinating mystery, s/he is also learning a great deal about how Japan "works" on many levels--the process of job-hunting, the importance of family and the use of the family register, the Public Employment department, attitudes toward women and their changing roles in society, attitudes toward adoption, and how the economy is changing as credit becomes more readily available. These topics add a fascinating new dimension to what might otherwise be a fairly standard, though extremely well written, mystery, keeping the reader thoroughly engaged on a level other than plot.
Cleanly written and straightforward, the novel is also unusual in that Miyabe develops character more successfully than many other mystery writers. Honma is a real person who seems older than his 42 years, with real worries and real domestic problems, and we come to know him, his life with his 10-year-old son, and his hopes for the future. This mystery is a welcome change of pace, still lively and absorbing even ten years after its initial publication.