In the age of click-bait and instant gratification, consumers of casual entertainment have limited tolerance for excessive detail and slow pacing. We have come to expect an easy payoff, and when an author dares to challenge us to enter a world where nothing comes easy, we can be quick to bail.
I’ll confess I was tempted to do just that while reading Six Four, my first – and perhaps last – excursion into the weird world of Japanese “police fiction”. I hesitate to say “thriller”, since the book was more a careful exposition of the inner workings of a regional police heirarchy, than a gripping page turner. The ‘thrills’ were well contained.
And yet if you can forgive the author his contempt for the reader, this book is in many ways worth the effort. The writing is terse yet powerful, though as ever it isn’t clear whether this is to the author’s credit, or the translator’s.
The central character Mikami, but also his wife and colleagues, come alive, drawing us in to their hunt for his runaway teenage daughter, and the frustration of their internal battles with the detectives and the local press corps. Incredibly, I found myself worrying alongside the local police that the visit of the Police High Commissioner to Prefecture D would not receive sufficient press coverage, bringing disgrace to Mikami and his team at Media Relations.
Perhaps the patience and dedication it takes to get the most out of reading Six Four teaches us something about the Japanese psyche? Perhaps it teaches us something about the nature of detective work? For sure we learn a lot about the bureaucracy of the Japanese police force.
Whether that is worth the investment in time and attention, is for the reader to decide.