Six Four Paperback – 28 Oct 2016
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Not only is Six Four an addictive read, it is an education about Japan, its police and its society, and simply one of the best crime novels I have ever read. (David Peace)
A classic plot about a decent cop painstakingly uncovering corruption suddenly turns into one of the most remarkable revenge dramas in modern detective fiction. (Sunday Times)
It's very different, in tone, narrative and style, from almost anything out there . . . the twist and the pay-off are worth the wait. (Observer)
A huge hit in Japan and it's easy to see why . . . steadily gathers menace and power until it becomes addictive. (The Times)
The plot would grip in any language . . . not just a police procedural but a guide book to Japan . . . There's much talk these days of binge viewing; here is a binge read. (Guardian)
Slow building, meticulous in its insistence on unfolding all the procedural elements of a Japanese crime investigation and its political ramifications, this is a novel that insidiously grows on you until you are fully captive of its narrative flow and can't put it down. (Maxim Jakubowski)
Avoids every crime-fiction cliché . . . complex, ingenious and engrossing . . . If not a bow, you will at least want to give Hideo Yokoyama a tip of your hat for writing such a highly entertaining book. (Washington Post)
Six Four gives back in abundance everything that the reader is prepared to give . . . demonstrating that crime fiction can be freighted with the weight and authority of serious literature. (Independent)
An astonishing book, poetically translated, containing one of the most complex central characters in crime fiction. Sometimes publishing sensations exceed expectations; Six Four deserves its success - past, present and future. (Crime Scene)
This novel is a real, out-of-the-blue original. I've never read anything like it . . . He's a master. (New York Times Book Review)
Absorbing . . . Six Four is an intensely complicated work, fleshed out by dozens of well-sketched characters, filled with changing perceptions and surprising twists . . . Its rewards are commensurate: unexpected revelations and quiet instances of human connection. (Best New Mysteries Wall Street Journal)
Six Four avoids every crime-fiction cliché. The reward is a gripping novel . . . Complex, ingenious and engrossing . . . Yokoyama possesses that elusive trait of a first-rate novelist: the ability to grab readers' interest and never let go. (Washington Post)
Already a bestseller in Japan and the U.K., this cinematic crime novel suffused with fascinating cultural details follows a police department reinvestigating a chilling kidnapping that stumped them 14 years earlier. (Entertainment Weekly)
Yokoyama's novel is a Jenga tower, each plot point and peripheral character part of an intricate balance . . . What is perhaps most striking about Six Four is the number of stories it contains. It probes the cruelty, pettiness and endless face-saving and ass-covering that come with bureaucratic infighting, as well as the anguished obsession that plagues the bereaved . . . a demanding and absorbing book. (O: The Oprah Magazine)
Though it deploys common tropes of crime fiction and its lightly noir style, Six Four's unusual focus on the PR side of police work sets it apart and gives it unexpected heat. Yokoyama avoids simplistic moralizing, and instead offers the reader a compelling interrogation of duty. (Time magazine)
Hideo Yokoyama's Six Four, translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, is by no means just another mystery novel . . . thoroughly believable and compelling. This is a major book, one that will stay in your mind well after you have turned the last page. (BookPage)
Extremely detailed style and carefully wrought characters. Six Four succeeds on several levels: as a police procedural, an incisive character study, and a cold-case mystery. (Booklist)
[Six Four] takes leisurely twists into the well-kept offices of Japan's elite while providing a kind of informal sociological treatise on crime and punishment in Japanese society, to say nothing of an inside view of the police and their testy relationship with the media. Elaborate, but worth the effort. Think Jo Nesbø by way of Haruki Murakami, and with a most satisfying payoff. (Kirkus Reviews)
The million-selling Japanese crime sensation, now in paperback.See all Product description
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Notwithstanding, Yokoyama's slow-burning thriller does packs plenty of atmosphere thanks to vivid descriptions of the chilled Japanese landscape in the heart of winter. His prose is, at times, wonderfully expressive, but for me, it just lacks the inherent darkness that makes a truly great crime novel.
Instead, this is a superb psychological novel about the effects of one particularly dreadful unsolved crime on the victim's family, individual police officers and the institution of the police itself. It is slow-burning, but it gets there in the end. I won't go into a detailed plot summary of Six Four here, but would refer you to Terrence Rafferty's excellent review in the New York Times (21/02/2017). Rafferty *gets* this novel in a way no other reviewer (of those I have seen) has so far.
As it happens, I do know Japan fairly well. I read Japanese history and literature in university, then spent a number of years living and working there. I am competent in the spoken language and can negotiate the written language well enough to get by. But even with my background, there are aspects of Six Four that I found challenging. You may find that you need to do a little homework to get the most out of the book.
For instance, there are a *lot* of characters, many of whom have rather similar names. This actually turns out to be significant to the story, but it can be difficult keeping everyone straight. I believe the paperback edition has a 'who's who' but the Kindle edition, which I read, does not. If you are reading a version without a 'cast of characters' it will be worthwhile to make notes of each new character -- name, gender, brief description.
The other thing which, again, *may* be included in hard-copy editions but wasn't in the Kindle edition, is a glossary for the many Japanese words which are left untranslated. I can understand the decision *not* to translate -- many, many Japanese words describe things which simply don't exist outside of Japan and for which there is no good translation without being awkward or misleading. Words like 'kotatsu,' 'bento,' 'koban,' 'chome' are best left in Japanese...but if the decision is made to do this, you really should provide a glossary, or note, at the end of the book to explain how these words, and the objects/concepts they signify, fit into the culture. I had no problem with this, but then, I speak Japanese. Most people don't. But the information is out there -- again, if you decide to read Six Four, be ready to look things up on Google so that you fully understand what is going on.
Similarly, a major plot point turns on one specific aspect of the Japanese writing system and an end-note explaining this would have been helpful for most readers who have no knowledge of the Japanese language. But again, the internet is your friend: a bit of background reading on the three main components of Japanese writing -- hiragana, katakana and kanji -- will aid your understanding no end.
I would also advise prospective readers that they may find some aspects of the story hard to believe...do people in Japan really bow that low, and spend that much time thinking about the politics of apologies? Yes, they do. Do people really spend that much time at work? Yes, they do. Is there really that much institutional sexism in the workplace? Sadly, yes, there is (although Japanese women have become unbelievably skilled at finding ways to pull strings and exercise their power from behind the scenes). It is worth noting that most of the action of the book takes place in late 2002, and socially things have moved on a bit since then. Even in Japan, things change...but perhaps more slowly than in other places.
Six Four, more than any other Japanese novel I've read in the last ten years, made me feel like I was back in Japan. Maybe not the romantic, picture-postcard part of Japan (which *does* exist!) but the gritty, workaday part...which has its own kind of beauty. If you are interested in Japan, or want to learn more about the country *and* you enjoy a challenge *and*, as a reader, you aren't afraid of a bit of hard work, I would thoroughly recommend this novel.
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