I am a little frustrated with some of the books I am reading at the moment, and I sometimes avoid reading at all because the books I have are either too difficult or not that interesting to me.
This is why I thought that I could always have a novel by Keigo HIGASHINO as back up for the times when I just want to relax and read something easy. As I don’t mind reading several books at the same time, why not always have one that I know I will appreciate and read without problems?
I picked 「虚ろな十字架」randomly, I was just careful to avoid a novel that would be part of a series. Now that I have already read some chapters, I can tell that the main topic of this book is the capital punishment.
I am very happy with this book because death penalty in Japan is a topic that interests me. Since I read 「赤い指」 I do not see Highashino’s books as pure detective stories anymore but as the reflection of societal issues. In 「赤い指」it was the burden that weighs on families when they have to take care of their ageing parents. In 「虚ろな十字架」it is the death penalty and how families of victims react to it. The book does not seem to be focused as much on the police investigation as on what follows: the court, the sentence, and what the families of the victims can do.
I have done some further readings on the topic and found that Higishino’s book echoes some real cases.
To me, the most shocking aspect of capital punishment in Japan is certainly that death-sentenced inmates are kept in solitary confinement and are informed of their execution only a few hours before it actually takes place (source). Death row inmates can stay in this anxious state for years or even decades, as was the case for Iwao HAKAMADA (Japanese News: June week 2.)
I have also read another novel recently on this topic 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真, but both books are very different.
As for 「虚ろな十字架」, I really enjoy reading it, both for the story and the things I learn through it as well as the various thoughts it leads to. As usual, I find Higashino’s writing style easy and though the book contains some vocabulary relative to court sentences and capital punishment, it is not a challenging read.