NOT THE CRIME THRILLER YOU EXPECTED FROM THIS JAPANESE WRITER
Hideo Yokoyama, Quercus, R295
The tension in Seventeen is immediate. The scene is set for what prepares you for a tale that reads like a walk on a tightrope. The novel opens on Mount Tanigawa and cites the hundreds of men who lost their lives attempting to climb it. And then the reader is jettisoned into the newsroom of The North Kanto Times (NKT), which is lively yet fraught with office politics and soon-to-be revealed history of the paper and its staff.
It is 1985, the year of a massive air disaster that leaves 520 dead and the NKT with an unimaginable scoop.
The story is told through the eyes of seasoned reporter Kazumasa Yuuki who, 17 years later, not only revisits the events that took place in the week of the catastrophe, but also his own promise to climb the Tsuitate rockface of Mount Tanigawa.
The author, Japanese mystery novelist Hideo Yokoyama was a well-known former journalist, who worked for the Jomo Shimun, a regional daily newspaper published in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. So he’s perfectly placed to paint a picture and evoke the mood of a newsroom – which he does beautifully.
Yokoyama also penned the 2016 thrilling crime-fiction novel Six Four, which became a publishing phenomenon after selling a million copies in six days. But readers should not expect the same of Seventeen, which is not so much a thriller or an investigative mystery as it is a detailed, factual narrative that unfolds painstakingly.