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Hachette Book Group (AU)
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Six Four: the bestselling Japanese crime sensation Kindle Edition
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A real, out-of-the-blue original. I've never read anything like it. Yokoyama ?[is] a master."? --Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review (front cover 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." --Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal, The Best New Mysteries "Six Four avoids every crime-fiction cliché. The reward is a gripping novel . . . Complex, ingenious and engrossing . . . strikingly original . . . Jonathan Lloyd-Davies has translated Six Four with unobtrusive brio . . . Yokoyama possesses that elusive trait of a first-rate novelist: the ability to grab readers' interest and never let go." --Dennis Drabelle, The 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, The Must List "Six Four arrives in America as one of the most anticipated titles of the year . . . 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." --Dotun Akintoye, O: The Oprah magazine "Six Four makes its U.S. debut four years after it came out in Japan, where it was a literary blockbuster. The book sold more than a million copies and was adapted both for film and for TV. Part of its appeal was the way it illuminated the country's deep tradition of hierarchy and control. --Sarah Begley, Time magazine 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, author of GB84 and The Damned Utd A classic plot [which] suddenly turns into one of the most remarkable revenge dramas in modern detective fiction...[It] will leave even the most observant reader gasping. --The Sunday Times Epic in ambition, [Six Four] unfurls like a flower in the spring sunlight, steadily increasing its grip as it does so. --Daily Mail "Hideo Yokoyama's Six Four, translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, is by no means just another mystery novel, but rather an award-winning cultural phenomenon on the scale of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy . . . There is a lot of buzz around this book, all of it well deserved . . . Yokoyama's prose is crisp and skillfully translated; the plot . . . is thoroughly believable and compelling." --Bruce Tierney, BookPage (Top Pick in Mystery) "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." --Jane Murphy, 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 --This text refers to the paperback edition.
'Crime fiction aficionados constantly search for the next big thing, and this remarkable epic may just fit the bill. It is like nothing ... in the genre, told in a narrative voice that is truly unique.' (Barry Forshaw) --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B011A0LSKE
- Publisher : riverrun; 1st edition (3 March 2016)
- Language : English
- File size : 1632 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 576 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 88,282 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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I found the book totally absorbing, probably because I have frequently enjoyed long visits to Japan where I had Japanese colleagues and co-authors working in the media. I found the Japanese corporate and civil service cultures both fascinating and not a little alarming. The nuances of Mikami’s analysis of why the people he has to cope with behave the way they do is really extraordinarily sophisticated by most Western standards.
I really enjoyed this book but I need to warn potential readers that unfamiliarity with Japanese names and the ranks and organisation of the Japanese police force can be off-putting. That said, Yokoyama is one of the most successful novelists writing in Japan today. This, though, is his first book to be translated into English. I look forward to reading more of him.
Interestingly though I was ultimately quite intrigued and read it in just a couple of sittings.
And yet… I cannot really say I enjoyed it.
Superintendent Yoshinobu Mikami has recently taken on the role of Press Director…. a position – it seems – in Japanese policing requires the appointment of a police officer, rather than a civilian. It is – however – part of the Administrative Affairs Department, whose staff (although most are also police officers) are looked down upon disdainfully by their Criminal Investigations’ counterparts.
Mikami’s taken the position solely for a promotion and – although he’s just started – is counting down the days until his return to Criminal Investigations.
He arrives mid-way through negotiations to commence ‘anonymous reporting’ and the press aren’t happy with the idea of not receiving identifying information of victims and perpetrators. They suggest they’re best placed to decide what’s in the public’s best interests if the information doesn’t impinge on an investigation.
Amidst this kerfuffle is the threat from Tokyo to make leadership changes and there’s discord between divisions and departments.
And then there’s the upcoming visit from a Commissioner to re-state the police’s commitment to uncovering the perpetrator of a 14yr old kidnapping which resulted in the death of a young girl.
While wrestling with the press corps Mikami meets with the girl’s family and goes through original case files and during this time discovers a stuff-up in the investigation which had wide repercussions for those involved.
This isn’t really crime fiction, though we do plod through the 14yr old kidnapping and are exposed to a similar case unfolding throughout the novel.
It’s more about the politics and inner workings of the police service and its dealings with the media and public. There was a lot of game-playing and I have to admit I wasn’t really that engaged in what was happening.
I did however engage with Mikami and suspect the fact I kept turning page after page was more about his character. Readers are told that Mikami is very unattractive and his teenage daughter – taking after her father rather than her beautiful mother – has run away. That was all a bit left field but the story arc around Mikami’s acceptance of his new role and realisation of its importance kept me interested.
I suspect most of my difficulty with this book was cultural. The translation was actually quite good and it was well written – though the reference to a colleague having cystitis at the end (which bore no relevance to anything) was a bit strange.
I struggled for some time with 'who was who' as many of the characters’ names were similar – Mikami, his wife Minako, underling Mikumo, former colleague Mochizuki, former boss Matsuoka etc. Lots of names starting with M and A. And I am sure non-English speakers have similar issues when reading books by English-speaking authors. It meant it took me some time to remember who was who and it was a tad frustrating.
I'm not sure I'd recommend this but think I'm glad I read it.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
For Japanese readers I can imagine this is a quite interesting take on the police thriller because of the main character Mikami's position in the Media Relations department, rather than as a detective, but the cultural gap for non-Japanese readers is really quite a chasm. Some say that a detective story is a really good way to examine society, and I agree; but this is one very extreme case. This book really needs either a good working knowledge of Japanese society, attitudes and organisational culture, or a deep curiosity about those things and a willingness to take things as you find them, as a baseline in order for it to make much sense. The apparently random internal transfers that are a fact of life in Japanese workplaces, the attitudes to superiors and subordinates, the intensely private interpersonal dynamics are all very different, as are innumerable other minor details.
Even then, as a British person I have preconcieved notions about what police are, what they do, how they work as an organisation and what their principles are. Every one of these was seriously challenged by this book. If this book is to be believed, the Japanese police force is a truly unrecogniseable institution in comparison. That is perhaps the book's key strength, as the sheer difference of it all prompts you to learn more about this utterly weird, deeply factional organisation that appears to think of catching criminals as a secondary and rather background affair compared to its own interior political struggles and institutional structural integrity.
At the same time it's a weakness, as it's very hard to simply take the characters and their actions and thought processes seriously as real people, given how far removed they are from what you might expect of a police force (or family, come to that - family dynamics are also very different, in ways one might not expect). Their values, motivation and drive is very hard to comprehend for me, and I already have many years of experience dealing with Japanese people, so for someone without any particular knowledge of Japan I can see this book being nearly impossible to read or understand. That's not to say the characters are actually badly-fashioned, though; they're very well fleshed out, just in ways that are hard to empathise with in a lot of cases, including the protagonist, who it was hard not to call an idiot for his attitudes at times, despite his intelligence, aims and sensitivity.
As an example, a central part of the story is the ideological principle behind releasing the personal details of victims or suspects to the media. To me, the basic idea of the press simply being given names by the police is incomprehensible; people have a basic human right to privacy that should never be violated by protectors of the citizenry in such a way, and if journalists do eventually get names it's because they've investigated, or because police decide releasing a name is going to help an investigation. But the press in this book are very upset not to be simply handed these details at press conferences as a matter of routine; I had no idea such a subject would ever be up for debate, and the solution that is ultimately reached, even though it deals with a universal theme, seems like something that would only ever happen in Japan.
It's also treading a fine line between making something interesting because it's unfamiliar, in particular the complicated relationship between the police and the media, and just being too enormously complicated or just plain *out there* to actually become engaging at all. The cast of characters is huge and convoluted, and for an important reason many of them have similar-sounding names as well, and a weakness of the author or possibly translator's style is the lack of any sort of introductory preamble to help the reader understand anything about the massive and complex organisation into the middle of whose political wiles they are about to be unceremoniously dumped, and who belongs to what part within it. Even people who work in a company need an org chart sometimes.
It's hard to recommend, despite how unusual it is. This breath of fresh air is too fresh for a lot of English-language readers. If you know Japan, or like me you think you do, you might find it interesting and enlightening, but unless you're willing to work hard for what is ultimately not that satisfying a story, it may not be for you.
It's not a whodunit by any means but certain correct assumptions can be drawn very early on which then make the plot side element drag.
I would recommend this to people that think the The Silmarilion is concise.
I would not recommend this to people who have read other popular Japanese works such as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, The Devotion of Suspect X, Ring etc. If you liked those kinds of books this will probably be somewhat annoying.