It’s been a while since I have read any contemporary Japanese fiction. A few years ago, I went through a rather intense period, reading all the books of Banana Yoshimoto and Haruki Murakami.
I recently received Shuichi Yoshida’s Villain as a present from Tseenster. It’s the first novel of his published in English and because of the current popularity for translated crime fiction, he is being marketed as the next Stieg Larsson.
Initially difficult to get into, I found that after a few chapters the book was quite engrossing.
The story is based in southern Japan, where the body of Fukuoka insurance saleswoman Yoshino Ishibashi is found. Soon after the discovery of the dead woman's body, Nagasaki police charge twenty-seven year old construction worker Yuichi Shimizu with first degree murder.
Villain has been described as part “police procedural and dirty realism” , as the focus of the story is not really the actual crime but the affects of it on the all the different players.
The novel is not so much concerned with ‘who did it?’ to ‘why did they do it?’. Like all good crime fiction, that is the more interesting and challenging question.
Structurally the novels shifts from different narrators, some talking directly to the reader in an interview style. This structure works because the strength of the novel is really Yoshida’s insightful and acute analysis of contemporary Japanese society. His able to directly give voice to the conflicts and misunderstandings between the different generations of Japanese society.
Interestingly, I think his most critical representations are of Japanese youth (mid twenties) and their disconnection to the any emotional reality.
Having lived in semi-rural Southern Japan in 2001, doing the usual teaching English gig, I found this Yoshida's representations of provincial Japanese life really spot on. Indeed, one of the main characters in the novel: the spoilt rich brat could have modelled on one of my students!
I am eagerly awaiting the translation of Yoshida's next novel.