Starfish's Reviews > Inspector Imanishi Investigates

Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto
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's review
Feb 11, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fun

Inspector Imanishi Investigates is a police procedural, first published in 1961 under the title Vessel of Sand (Suna no Utsuwa). It's written by Mstsumoto Seicho, translated into English by Beth Carey.

It's hard to know how to read it.

When I first started on it, I thought it was a meticulously rendered police procedural, very modern. It took me a while to work out that it was set and written so long in the past as the attention to police work and the tone seemed really modern. Also the expressions the characters use while talking about themselves seem very Japanese.

With the introduction of the nouveau group, the gaps became more noticeable. It's hard to imagine a group of intellectuals having celebrity appeal these days, and there are other aspects of the plot I couldn't find credible at all. In that respect, it's a lot like a Conan Doyle or an Agatha Christie thriller; amazingly out there plotting with a solution you'd never see coming. Unlike Christie or Conan Doyle, Matsumoto balances this surrealism with a realism that is amazingly detailed and believable. He paints a picture of his main character's life, family and colleagues in detail that is amazing both in how much of it there is and how it is delivered. I'm not sure whether this is a fault of the translation or remains true to Matsumoto's style, but the prose is simple in the extreme, but at the same time, rich with description. It's flat, but I wasn't bored. I had to put the book down twice out of fear for the characters. Some of the Japanese expressions used, the ones that make the book seem so authentic to me, sound really odd when put into English. I can see those detracting from the book for people who aren't familiar with Japanese culture, but for me it really helped the feel of the story.
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