Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Investigation” as Want to Read:
The Investigation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Investigation

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  880 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Fukuoka Prison, 1944. Beyond the prison walls the war rages; inside a man is found brutally murdered.

Yuichi Watanabe, a young guard with a passion for reading, is ordered to investigate. The victim, Sugiyama - also a guard - was feared and despised throughout the prison and inquiries have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanabe is unconvinced; and as he
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 27th 2014 by Mantle (first published June 24th 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Investigation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Investigation

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  880 ratings  ·  157 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Investigation
Diane S ☔
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Yuichi, barely twenty, loves the books and poems found within his family's bookstore, often losing himself in literature and hiding away books that he wants to keep for himself. Soon he finds himself in the Japanese army, a mandatory service which leads to him being assigned as a guard in the notorious Japanese prison Fukuoka. There he will find himself put in charge of the investigation into the death of a cruel and sadistic guard, Sugiyama.

Things in this prison are not what they appear on the
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
The Investigation – A Beautiful Story

The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee and translated from Korean is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time. It is a beautiful epic story of freedom and humanity, about survival in war and not everything is as it seems, as the saying goes ‘rivers run deep’. The novel is inspired by the life and death of the Korean poet Yun Dong-ju and uses some of his posthumously published work, and a wonderful body of poetry that is used throughout the book
(3.5) “If you have to bet on something, I suggest you choose hope.” In the frigid January of 1945, narrator Watanabe Yuichi, a 19-year-old Japanese student soldier at Fukuoka Prison, is tasked with investigating the gruesome murder of his fellow guard, Sugiyama Dozan. Although Fukuoka is in Manchuria, an area of northeast China under Japanese control, most of the inmates are Korean, including real-life poet Yun Dong-ju, many of whose poems are included in the text.

When Yuichi takes over Sugiyama
The Investigation is set in a prison camp in Fukuoka, Japan, near the end of World War II. It focuses on the life and death of Korean poet, Yun Dong-ju. During the time I was reading the book, I was unaware the he was an actual person and did, in fact, die while being held in a Japanese prison camp. When a vicious prison guard known as Sugiyama the Butcher is killed found hanging with a stake through his heart and his mouth sewed shut, Yuichi Watanabe, a young Japanese guard, is put in charge of ...more
Nancy Oakes
like a 3.75 rounded up

Right around mid-December, someone in the publishing industry posted his/her list of best crime novels of 2015, and this book was on it. I remember thinking that at the time I bought it, it didn't really seem like a crime novel, and I thought the reference on the best-of list was kind of weird, so I plowed through the translated fiction shelves, found it, and decided I needed to read it. The more I read into it, the less it appealed to me as a crime novel and more as a nove
My library has this book filed under the mystery section. While there is a murder in the book, I have chosen to put it on my historical fiction shelf, as a large part of the book is to do with the real life poet Yun Dong-ju.

The entire book is set in a Japanese prison in 1944. At the very beginning of the book, one of the guards, Sugiyama, is found brutally murdered. And for reasons unbeknownst to him, a very young guard, Watanabe Yuichi, is ordered to investigate the crime.

While looking into thi
Liz Barnsley
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thank you kindly to the publisher for the Advance Reading Copy.

Fukuoka Prison, 1944. Beyond the prison walls the war rages; inside a man is found brutally murdered. Watanabe, a young guard with a passion for reading, is tasked with finding the killer. The victim, Sugiyama – also a guard – was feared and despised throughout the prison and investiWgations have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanabe is unconvinced; and as he interrogates both the suspect and Yun Dong-ju, a tale
J.M. Hushour
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very difficult book to review, for reasons that are equally difficult to elucidate.
On the one hand, we have a lovely fictionalization of the final year of Korean poet Yun Dong-ju's life in a Japanese prison during the final year of World War 2. In that nice, "English Patient"-y kind of way, a real event is distorted to fit into a well-intentioned narrative, one that deals with a prison guard's death, poetry, kites, and probably most important, the emergence of beauty through suffering.
On the o
Angel 一匹狼
May 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Here we have one of those books that some people seem to fall in love with. You have all the basic ingredients: war, poetry, love of books, characters that change and become more "human" as the plot advances... It seems an interesting combination.

Sadly, Lee Jung-Myung makes more than one and two mistakes along the way.

The story is not complicated. In a prison, a guard is killed. Another guard, a young guy that used to pass his time in his parents' bookstore, is asked to find the culprit. Cue che
Jessica Woodbury
At first I thought this was a Japanese novel, but it's actually Korean. It's set in a Japanese prison with several Korean inmates, a piece of history I hadn't known about. At first this book seems like a crime novel, but it's actually about poetry and empathy. It can be a little tricky keeping tabs of the two parallel storylines, but it was quite beautiful. A great book for lovers of books and poetry. ...more
Paul Ataua
On the surface, ‘The Investigation’ is a novel about a young guard unravelling the mystery of the murder of another guard in Fukuoka prison. That ‘investigation’ part, however, seems contrived and a little obvious, and is probably best seen as the opportunity to undertake the more important ‘investigation’ of Koreans in Japan during wartime, and the importance of language and literature on identity. Looking back on the novel things started to become clearer. I started to understand why Watanabe ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From time to time a novel comes along that introduces you to a whole new voice from literature's history. The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee, newly translated from the Korean and published at the end of the month, is one of those rare novels. This story was inspired by one of Korea's most well loved poets Yun Dong-ju, who is known only thanks to the posthumously published collections of his work. Portions of Yun's poetry is reproduced throughout the novel alongside work by Rilke, Stendhal and D ...more
John McKenna
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mysterious Book Report No. 173
by John Dwaine McKenna
Mention “World War II Prison Stories” in any group and the resulting discussion will invariably focus around one of three classic and much admired movies: Stalag 17, The Great Escape, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. But, if you’re willing to do more than sit on the couch with a dazed look and the TV remote in hand, if you’ll take the time to find and read this week’s novel—you’ll be introduced to an author who’s wildly popular and influential
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Translated from Korean and inspired by the real-life Korean poet Yun Dong-ju, many of whose poems are to be found in the book, this is an unusual and deeply moving novel about the power of literature and words, the quest for beauty in the face of savagery and the redemption that can be found in friendship. It’s set in Fukuoka Prison in Japan during WW2. A guard has been found dead, hanging from a beam. His name is Sugiyama Dozan and he was feared and despised by all the prisoners for his cruelty ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love that this was made based on a respectable Korean poet, Yun Dong Ju. It was a work of fiction but written slightly factual. The flow of its plot was so beautiful and heartwarming. I love how Yuichi narrated his story, so vivid and full of emotions. It was more to a friendship, mankind and history rather than an investigation-- realizing about humanity and moral, the lovely and historical side of literature and poetry. Thrilling with war story, intense battle and surviving chronicles. This ...more
Leslie Ann
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Mystery/thrillers are not my typical genre, but I really enjoy such books from South Korea. This one features very good prose and a great plot, and inspires me to learn more about the Korean poet, Yun Dong-ju.
Madhulika Liddle
Lee Jung-Myung’s The Investigation starts out in almost classic historical detective story style. There’s a brief prologue in which the narrator—a twenty-year old Japanese soldier named Watanabe Yuichi, now a POW—is introduced. The year is 1945, and something is weighing on Watanabe’s mind.

What that is, is the story of The Investigation, and it’s set in 1944, in Fukuoka Prison. Home to hundreds of Japanese and Korean prisoners, both criminals as well as political prisoners (especially, among th
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense
The murder of a guard at a Japanese World War II prison draws another guard into an investigation of the crime and the value of life under trying circumstances.
Watanabe Yuichi is only 19 and newly assigned to the notorious Fukuoka Prison when he's ordered to undertake the investigation into the slaying of the veteran and war hero Sugiyama Dozan.
Since it had snowed overnight and there were no footprints leading away from the building it was natural to suspect a prisoner--especially since Sugiyama
Dana Stabenow
It's an interesting premise--a Japanese prison guard who is not as young and clueless as he seems, who during WWII investigates the murder of an older guard who is not the brutal war hero he seems. Both men become close to a Korean poet, who is exactly what he seems. Betrayal and brutality interspersed with beautiful poetry march hand in hand to several bloody conclusions.

However, there is a sort of distancing quality to the prose that absent other evidence I'm going to put down to the translati
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of those books that you just can't put down. An investigative story, in a style similar to Fargo perhaps, and while some parts of the ending may be expected you will certainly be surprised with the conclusion of the investigation which is the propelling force behind the flow of the novel and the motivation that drives the protagonist. Things are not what they seem. The investigation and the various characters unfold gently with the Korean poetry that binds the different layers together beaut ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written story about the Japanese occupation of Korea. Although a fictinalised account of the plight of Korean prisoners in Japan, the story is inspired by a real Korean poet Yun Dong Ju. The prisoners' love of books, poetry and music is absolutely moving and their feeble but valiant attempts to protect and preserve what little literature they can remember while in captivity is truly inspiring. Excellent book! ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life may not have a purpose. But death requires clarity-not to prove that death occurred but for the benefit of those who survive.” And Yuichi Watanabe a Japanese soldier and prison guard during WWII, who is now charged as a low level war criminal by the US military is determined to get clarity and to make sense of what he saw and heard during his years at Fukuoka Prison.

It all started the morning that Sugiyama Dozen, Watanabe’s superior officer, was found murdered. It wasn’t just that he was ki
Janet Emson
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Yuichi Watanabe is a young Japanese prison guard, drafted in to guard Korean prisoners in Fukuoka Prison during WWII. He is ordered to investigate the murder of another prison guard, Sugiyama, a cruel man, feared throughout the prison. As Watanabe begins to investigate he comes into contact with thugs, wily prisoners and a young, gentle poet. He also begins to find out that Sugiyama and the prisoners are not all
Vicky-Leigh Sayer
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Investigation is inspired primarily by Korean poet Yun Dong-Ju and uses his work throughout the novel to great emotional effect.

Ultimately The Investigation is Yuichi Watanabe's story.

He is just 17 years old when he is called up to join the Japanese war effort. He is posted to a guard's position at Fukuoka prison and assigned to Ward Three, notorious throughout the prison for the criminals it holds.

His fellow guard Sugiyama has a celebrated reputation for being a former war hero, but he is b
Chuk Yong
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prison, plots, poetry. Do they belong together?

Through the investigation of the murder of Sugiyama, a notorious and feared prison guard, we are lead by an young investigator deep into the walls and dungeons of a Japanese prison during world war two.

The prison in Fukuoka houses a ward of Korean prisoners. Japanese viewed Koreans as enemies during the war and those who were in Japan were locked up for the most insignificant crime. Among them was Dong-Ju, a poet (in real world, Yu Dong-Ju was a po
Nancy Chiok
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gripped me from the beginning until the end.

It is wonderfully written with the characters being introduced at the right time.

I admired the translator for getting the right words to express the expressions and emotions in the prisons during the war.

It provides me the opportunity to pick up poetry again, something I have lost it as I was building my career sometime back.

What makes this story different from the rest is that the story has added some dimensions to make the tale more meaning
Robert Gebhardt
This book was actually excellent. It is a murder mystery, but this takes a backdrop to the events occurring at the time (the war, imprisoned Koreans, Japan trying to eliminate Korea as a country, etc.)

I loved some of the symbolism, like the Korean prisoners singing "Carry me back to Old Virginny", and "Va Pensiero" in their concert (which, although from an allied country, is about losing one's homeland).

Not to mention, the Korean poet from the story is a real person, who was really imprisoned i
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A guard is found dead, his lips sewn shut, inside Fukuoka prison during WWII. From there we are launched into a crime thriller as the narrator tries to determine who killed the feared and brutal Dozan Sugiyama, known as The Butcher. There are intrigues aplenty and nothing is as simple as it seems on the surface.

But it’s also about the power of poetry, music, literature and the works of Korean poet Yun Dong-ju whose poems have been posthumously published after he perished inside a Japanese prison
Paulina Wiatr
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If you have to read one book this year make it this one. It is book about the war, but not about the war. It is universal tackling the truths which we have to face both in times of peace and conflict. It is a book about humanity and whether war and suffering can take it from us. This book shows us that we can never really know the person and that the most evil of them can have the kindest heart.
This book not only makes you think, but does what I love most about the literature- it is meta on the
Scott Pare
This book was recommended to me by a friend. I have to say it was one of the best books I've read in a long time.

There are tons of reviews out there on this book, so I won't go into all the details as you can read those.

What I will say is this book took me by surprise as I wasn't expecting a book that falls under literature. I was expecting something totally else.

The story starts off slow. Give it a bit of time. However, this book is really well written and has all the elements you would expect
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: The Investigation by Jun-Myung Lee - 4 Stars 3 12 Mar 23, 2017 12:38PM  
Play Book Tag: The Investigation by J.M. Lee - 4.6 stars 10 21 Jan 13, 2017 01:07PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Horyzont
  • Saturnin
  • Niegrzeczne. Historie dzieci z ADHD, autyzmem i zespołem Aspergera
  • Cud, miód, Malina. Kronika rodziny Koźlaków
  • Rdza
  • Zakon Drzewa Pomarańczy. Część 2
  • Dżozef
  • Zakon Drzewa Pomarańczy. Część 1
  • Z miłości? To współczuję. Opowieści z Omanu
  • Jaskółki z Czarnobyla
  • Melodia mgieł dziennych
  • A co wyście myślały? Spotkania z kobietami z mazowieckich wsi
  • First Person Singular: Stories
  • Wrzask (Wrzask, #1)
  • Revenge
  • 27 śmierci Toby'ego Obeda
  • Baśń o wężowym sercu albo wtóre słowo o Jakóbie Szeli
  • Żeby umarło przede mną. Opowieści matek niepełnosprawnych dzieci
See similar books…
Lee Jung-myung (이정명) has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his books in his native Korea. One, Deep Rooted Tree, was made into a popular TV series. ...more

Related Articles

Of Women and Salt, the debut novel by Gabriela Garcia, has the feel of a sweeping family saga that’s hard to reconcile with the fact that it’s...
2 likes · 0 comments
“one sentence seemed to change a man, and the world seemed to change, one man at a time.” 1 likes
“Books were cities I'd never visited, filled with pillars of great thoughts and streets of phrases, mazes of abstruse sentence structures and alleys of complicated syllables. They were stores that displayed a wide range of things, punctuation twinkling like the crest of a venerable family, sentences breathing peacefully, words whispering.” 1 likes
More quotes…