Book review: 『名もなき毒』 by Miyuki Miyabe

Introduction

Title: 『名もなき毒』 (なもなきどく) (Nameless Poison)
Author: Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき)
Publisher: 文春文庫
607 pages

This is the second book in the Saburo Sugimura series 杉村三郎シリーズ. There are 5 main titles in the series so far.

The series should be read in order as the second book reveals facts from the first book 『誰か』, and overall, seeing how the main protagonist Saburo Sugimura evolves is what makes this series the most interesting in my opinion.

This story takes place one year after the events of 『誰か』.

Review

Saburo Sugimura works for his step-father’s company, Imada group, and he and his colleagues are having trouble with a former employee. Sugimura will also find himself tackling a serial murder case and do what his wife calls 探偵みたいなこと.

Underwhelming for a detective story

This is classified as a 推理小説, but I personally would not say that this book really falls in this category. It does have a murder case, but the book is more focused on the main character and his daily life than on the investigation. Overall, I would not recommend this book to someone looking for an exciting detective novel.

First of all, the pace of this novel is incredibly slow. The book is 600 pages long, but it is not because there are a lot of things happening… the same story could be told with 300 pages only.

Similarly to the first novel of the series, 『誰か』, Saburo Sugimura is not a private detective (yet), so the investigative parts are not the most exciting. A credible explanation as to why a normal salary man would start investigating a murder case is also needed. This makes for a very slow set-up which was quite similar to the first book.

As for the event that make this story a “detective story”, namely a serial poisoning which sounded very promising at first, it ends up being more and more underwhelming as we get closer to the truth.

There is another side story that involves one of Saburo Sugimura’s former assistants, and I found this part of the story to be much more interesting and engaging than the main investigation on the poisoning.

Second half feeling quite long and slow

I loved the first half of the novel and read it quickly, but it took me forever to go through the second half. I found that the pace of the novel became irritably slow, and even though I liked this book overall, I slowly lost interest in the story. It was easy to foresee what would happen and yet, we had to go through all the lengthily steps that led to it.

Great main character: Saburo Sugimura

With only the first two books of the series read so far, I have already spent more than 1000 pages with Saburo Sugimura. I find that the main interest of this series is to follow Sugimura and share his daily life at work and with his family. His relationship with his father-in-law and how this affects his life at work and his private life is particularly interesting.

Good series overall but not for fans of detective fiction

I would not recommend this book or the series to someone who wants a good detective/crime novel with suspense and an exciting investigation. However, if you want to read an entertaining novel with a solid main character, this series is very good. Again, to me the main interest of the book was to follow Saburo Sugimura, so I would definitely recommend to read the series in order, rather than just picking this one book.

I will continue the series for sure, as I want to know what life has in store for Saburo Sugimura. (The next novel is even longer than this one with 800+ pages…)

Illustration: 紙パックのウーロン茶に混入されていたのは、今度もまた青酸性の毒物だった。p.13