Title: 夜の終わる時 (よるのおわるとき)
Author: 結城昌治 YŪKI Shōji
First published in 1963.
The edition I’m reviewing is the Chikuma bunko edition of 2018, 416 pages. I read the digital version on Booklive.
The novella (around 200 pages) called 夜の終る時 won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1964. This edition also contains four other short stories: 「殺意の背景」 、「熱い死角」、「汚れた刑事」、「裏切りの夜」.
If you like the police procedural genre, you will certainly love this book! Looking at the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far, this one belongs to my favourites.
The novella 夜の終わる時 is certainly the best story of the collection, but if you like it, you will also like the other short stories. They do tend to feel a bit repetitive after a while because they all feature similar problems and situations, but they are very interesting.
What I like about 夜の終わる時 is that we get an engrossing investigation while also learning a lot about police procedures and challenges of the time. The relation between the police and the yakuza, which is a central theme of all the stories, was particularly interesting to read about. Policemen found themselves in this awkward situation where they need to collaborate with the yakuza while keeping their values as police officers. This can lead to corruption and to a loss of identity.
I also loved how we get to know about the split between the older generation of policemen who are dedicated to their work and don’t hesitate to use unethical methods, and the younger generation who disapproves of these methods and are not ready to sacrifice their personal life to what is only a job. We also learn a lot about hierarchy and the bitter fact that education outweigh experience when it comes to promotion. Police detectives work hard for a low wage and little hope of promotion.
Shoji Yuki gives a realistic description of these problems, and as a result, he also gives a lot of names to remember. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of characters introduced at the beginning of 夜の終わる時, so I really recommend to take notes. It is also a good idea to check out the police grades and hierarchy.