About the book
Author: Kenji KOSUGI 小杉健治
Published by 光文社文庫
Kenji KOSUGI is a prolific author of mystery novels. 『父からの手紙』was first published in 2003.
We follow two main protagonists: Mamiko, a young woman whose father left the house and disappeared when she was a teenager and Keiichi, a young man who just got out of prison. They both start a quest to understand the past.
『父からの手紙』is a good mystery novel with an engaging plot and a good balance between mystery and family drama. The importance given to the family and how broken bounds can affect members of the family, especially children, was an interesting topic of the book. It also made it very sad at times.
The end surprised me, and even though I didn’t end up in tears as the obi predicted that I would, I found that the story has a strong emotional impact.
I found that the novel got better the more I read. The beginning is relatively slow, but this feeling might be due to the summary I read on the back cover. I strongly recommend that you do not read the summary because it reveals a key event that only happens very late in the novel. As a result, the beginning felt slow because I already knew what would happen and was just waiting for it.
There are two things, however, that I did not like in the novel. The first thing is that there are a lot of repetitions throughout the book. The chapters alternate between the story of Mamiko and Keiichi, and I found that each time we met a character again, we had to go through all the thoughts and interrogations they had had during the preceding chapter.
Another thing that I found frustrating is the way the novel holds back information from the reader, especially in the story of Keiichi. It takes a lot of chapters before we learn about his past, and why he went to prison. I think that an author can create two types of mystery: 1) things that both the character and the reader do not know, 2) things that the character knows but not the reader. I find that using this second type of mystery is frustrating for the reader, creates distance between the reader and the character and is not a real mystery as far as the plot is concerned.
Partly because the summary on the back cover had spoiled the first half of Mamiko’s story and partly because of the frustrating holding of information in the first half of Keiichi story, it took me some time to get into the story. But once the two characters started investigating the past, the novel became unputdownable. In spite of the things that I didn’t like, I still enjoyed reading this book and recommend it if you like family mysteries.