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by Hideo Yokoyama and Jonathan Lloyd-Davis, trans.
Quercus, June 2016
656 pages
$32.99 CAD
ISBN: 1848665253

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

SIX FOUR is one of those books that demands considerable commitment from readers. At a whopping 656 pages, it's a considerable weight to be holding onto for a long period of time, which you will be, as it's a very detailed, dense and potentially frustrating read.

A form of police procedural crime novel, set within the confines of a police station and a stalled investigation, SIX FOUR, is, in the beginning, a study in police / media relationships. The central protagonist, Mikami, a career police officer now seconded to the media office, has a brief to improve co-operation between the media and the police. The media have their own press office within the police station with ongoing access to information about cases. A large part of this novel is devoted to the building, unravelling and reconstructing of this relationship with the demands from the media particularly startling. Aside from the fact that their ongoing temper tantrum distracts constantly from Mikami's concerns about a fourteen-year-old open case of the kidnap and murder of a seven-year-old girl, the media's behaviour is breathtakingly over the top, and drawn out. Oh so very very drawn out.

Readers may therefore find themselves drawing considerably on reserves of patience, unless of course, this ongoing sort of quasi-political / power battle is of particular interest. For fans of more traditional crime fiction, when aspects of the cold case manage to work their way into the narrative there is much to reward. It's hard not to be struck by the coincidence of patience required by the reader and the patience that Mikami shows in doggedly wanting to solve this old case, perhaps for the sake of a still grieving father more than anything else. He has though, a very personal reason for reacting that way, and the trials of Mikami and his wife Minako, the constant wonder he feels over his beautiful wife choosing him, his downplaying of his intelligence and his compassion, these aspects of SIX FOUR are part of what also rewards that patient reader. And a word of warning - you may also find that a tendency for names to be very similar will have you backtracking to check who is who, or resorting to a handy character / job description list to keep track.

Lacking, as it does, a form of "procedural arc", instead SIX FOUR relies on Mikami's chasing down of loose ends, some of them particularly odd to his acute investigative eye. Towards the end of the novel, once the obsession with media relationships has been sated, and the real possibility of solving a fourteen year old case starts to burn more brightly, there is an unexpected sense of tension and expectation. There's also a lot of descriptive elements, and a hefty dose of distractions and seemingly inconsequential elements built in, even at this stage of the book.

SIX FOUR isn't going to be to everyone's taste, no doubt whatever about that. There will be readers who will want to run screaming from the media pack and their unfettered grab for power (and for that matter their astounding laziness), and there will be readers who want to slap each and every boss / higher-up that Mikami has to deal with. There will also be readers who are absolutely enthralled by the detailed manner in which so many aspects of this community, its police station and the media work. For them, the 656 pages may not feel like such a hefty level of commitment.

Karen Chisholm has been reading crime fiction since she could hold a book upright. When not reading she builds websites and pretends to be a farmer. Her website, AustCrimeFiction has been covering fiction from Australia and New Zealand since 2006: http://www.austcrimefiction.org/

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm, April 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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