Title: 『駐在日記』 (ちゅうざいにっき)
Author: Yukiya SHOJI (小路 幸也)
Published by 中公文庫
Yukiya Shoji is a prolific author of fiction who wrote several mystery novels including the series “Tokyo Bandwagon” (東京バンドワゴン).
『駐在日記』 was first published in 2017 and got its first pocket edition this year (2020). There is a second volume entitled 『あの日にかえりたい』(published in 2019), which seems to be the direct following of 『駐在日記』. It is certainly better to read 『駐在日記』 first, as it introduces the characters and the setting.
『駐在日記』 is a short novel divided into four chapters. We follow the young couple Hana and Shuhei as they settle in the small and rural Kijiyama in 1975. Shuhei has been posted here as policeman and the couple moves in the police substation (駐在所). Hana decides to write a journal about their life there. Each chapter is devoted to a different case, but the story follows a chronological order and the book cannot be read as a collection of short stories.
I bought this book because I love mystery novels and I also enjoy reading stories set in the countryside. This book was exactly what I was expecting and I enjoyed reading it. I was not expecting too much in terms of criminal investigation because Kijiyama is a peaceful village, and indeed, this is not a book that you will read for the thrill of tracking a murderer. I found the mysteries in the book a little too obvious and easy to crack, but it was still very pleasant to go through them with Shuhei, Hana and the other inhabitants of Kijiyama.
I loved the setting and the characters even though I did not particularly feel that the story happens in 1975. I don’t know how a Japanese reader would see it, but to me, the novel lacked references or details that would set it in the early 70s. At times, I forgot that the story was taking place 50 years ago.
There is maybe just one thing that I did not like but that did not prevent me from enjoying the book overall. After some time reading, it became evident that everyone in Kijiyama would be nice and good. There is no real bad guy and more generally speaking, the countryside lifestyle is depicted in an idealised way: the villagers help each other, they share what they possess with their neighbours, etc.
To conclude, I enjoyed 『駐在日記』 and this is a book I recommend if you like light mystery novels. I don’t think that I will read the second tome 『あの日にかえりたい』, but I am very interested in trying the series Tokyo Bandwagon.