POINTS AND LINES - Seicho Matsumoto

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Publication Details
Book Title: 
Points and Lines
ISBN: 
0870114565
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Book Synopsis

A prominent official in a ministry tinged with scandal.  A dining car receipt.  A name missing from a passenger list.  And a young man and woman dead on a beach in an apparent suicide - lovers who had one final drink together.  Disconnected points, but not to Detective Torigai, who keeps searching for the lines that link the dead and the living.

Book Review

This has been a book that's been in the back of my mind as a "must read" for a long time.  It combines that most fascinating (to me) of components of crime fiction - a mystery and an insight into life and the thinking of another culture - one that's totally different to my own.  Whilst a lot of "authority" want the death of the young couple to just be written down to "Love suicide", Detective Torigai is not so sure.  Kenichi Sayama has that dining car receipt in his wallet, it's from the last train journey witnesses say he boarded with Otoki.  Yet the receipt only mentions a meal for one.  Then there's the assumption that Kenichi and Otoki are lovers, but nobody seems to have known anything about the affair - and they both, in their own way, seem to have been very private, almost lonely people.  And there's the scandal's within the MInistry where Kenichi works.
 
The suspicion that something is not right is eventually picked up by a higher up / Tokyo based investigator, Kiichi Mihara, who agrees with Torigai that something is not right.  But proving that there was somebody else involved proves incredibly difficult.
 
The ultimate solution to the crime comes from so deep within the Japanese psychology that it's completely fascinating.  The country runs on its train system - the main method of moving around is via the trains, and a woman's obsession with reading timetables doesn't seem at all strange to Mihara.  Mind you, he's as immersed in timetables as her, as he tries to understand who could possibly have been where when Otoki and Kenichi died.
 
All in all a fascinating mystery and a fabulous peek at Japanese life.
 

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