Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

INSPECTOR IMANISHI INVESTIGATES is the first Japanese written crime / mystery book that I can remember reading for quite some time, and it must have worked as I've been tracking down other examples and other authors to try.

When an unidentified (and it soon appears) difficult to identify man is found under the rails of a Tokyo Station early one morning, he's been strangled and dumped on the rails - seemingly in an attempt to take away any further chance of identifying him when the first train of the morning ran over the corpse.  

I'll admit it - I found Inspector Imanishi incredibly engaging.  The style of language in the book is slightly formal - I guess partly because of the publication date (1961 for the Japanese version) and partly because it is Japanese - and they seem to be a considerably more formal people than what I'm used to. Rather than provide any form of dating for the book, it simply placed it formally in another culture - a culture considerably different from ours.  There's the lovely ritual of exchanging name cards, there is the formal methods of addressing each other, there is even a formal courtesy to Imanishi's relationship with his wife which just appealed immensely.

The investigation itself proceeds very very slowly - this is 1967 after all and inquiries are frequently done in writing, in formal letters.  Movement around the country is done by train, some inquiries are hampered by the destruction of records at the end of the Second World War.  Sure there are some technological aspects - maybe these were glimpses forward to the technological giant that Japan has since become - but in some ways the mystery, while central to the plot, was less interesting than the characterisations, the Inspector, the food (I was consistently craving food throughout this book) and the tremendous sense of place.

Year of Publication

The corpse of an unknown man is discovered under the rails of a train in a Tokyo station, and Inspector Imanishi is assigned to the case.  Inspector Imanishi is a wonderfully Japanese man ... Haiku poet, gardener and the most dogged homicide detective on the Tokyo police force.

Karen Chisholm
Friday, September 7, 2007

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