NOT THE CRIME THRILLER YOU EX­PECTED FROM THIS JA­PANESE WRITER

Hideo Yokoyama, Quer­cus, R295

Sunday Times - - Review - Seven­teen Zodwa Ku­malo @Zod­dies

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.

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