by Akimitsu Takagi
Soho Press (1999)
The Informer is an interesting look at Japan during the years when its economy was just beginning to take off, as this book was written in the mid-1960s. The narrative moves along at a steady pace, relating the story of Shigeo Segawa, an unmarried, unemployed, down on his luck stockbroker, a man who will do almost anything for money.
Almost broke, he is made an offer for a job where the money sounds almost too good to be true, as an industrial spy. However, things get complicated for him when he realizes that he must spy on his old school friend, a man who married Segawa’s true love, and at the same time keep up the pretense of doing ‘honest’ business. When the friend turns up murdered, Segawa is a prime suspect, but as always, nothing is what it really seems. Issues of morality and the ambiguity of a so-called moral stance are also examined, and fully fleshed-out characters with human traits of both heroism and deep flaws are shown, lending the book a further degree of authenticity.
Takagi has a keen eye for both male and female characters, inhabiting their thoughts and deeds in equal measures of compassion, revealing their dilemmas and how they really view their lives and those of the people around them, making for a deeper and more complex mystery that looks at all aspects of the principal character’s lives rather than just the main event.
The police procedural aspects of the story are told with an authoritative realism, and the various twists and plot contrivances keep one reading on, a sure sign that this an author in control of his craft. Takagi has a very straightforward and uncomplicated writing style, making it easy to get into the story and dip back into if one has to put the book down. The translation can feel a bit stilted at times in the dialogue but overall this is a good read that offers great insights into Japanese life that are still somewhat relevant today.
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005