You're Setting Up Your Razor Wire Shrine

I was looking for something suspenseful, a beach read for summer, and one of the local libraries recommended this. I had a glorious time dozing in the sand and reading this book on and off while snuggled up in my hoodie–this is still, after all, the Pacific Northwest, and the beaches here are cold!

Under the Midnight Sun Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Journey Under the Midnight Sun is less of a whodunnit--that part is pretty clear right from the start--than a whydonnit or a howdunnit. Those questions were what made this book a page-turner, and they kept me guessing at the answers right up until the last 50 pages or so. While the motivations of the characters turned out to be fairly believable even while they came as a surprise, the plausibility of their ability to pull off heinous and technically complicated crimes--and to manipulate everyone around them in order to avoid capture--was questionable.

There's a byzantine cast of characters, which made untangling the mystery all that much more complex for me because I had a hard time keeping track of everyone. Admittedly, I think this is due just as much to my minimal familiarity with Japanese names as it is to the raft of new characters introduced throughout the book.

In fact, more than the plot or the psychology of the perpetrators or the plausibility of the crimes, what I discovered in the process of reading this novel is how much of a difference cultural familiarity--or ignorance--can make in my reading experience, as well as how flat-out limited my knowledge of Japanese culture is. For instance, because the book spans decades, Higashino signals the passage of time throughout the book by referencing different elements of Japanese culture--pop songs, baseball teams, TV shows, sumo wrestlers--that were having their heyday at the moment a chapter takes place. I was able to decipher the timing from other cues, but it took me a while to understand that this was even an intentionally crafted element of Higashino's storytelling because I was so oblivious to what these references signaled.

I'm certain I missed out on other nuances due to my cultural illiteracy, though I did my best to stay curious and research what I could about aspects I knew I didn't understand. Still, sometimes you don't know what you don't know. If I say I "liked" this book, rather than "loved" it, I'd chalk that up to my failure to bring enough to the table as a reader to see the full picture that Higashino paints.

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Published on July 27, 2019 20:27 Tags: japan, mystery, novel
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