Book review: 『夜の終る時』by Shoji Yuki

Cover of the book “Yoru no owaru toki”. The cover shows the silhouettte of a man seen from behind and a urban landscape with roofs and buildings. The style of the cover makes it difficult to see the details and the cover is rather dark with just a ray of sunlight piercing through the buildings.

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.

Book review: 『影の告発』by Takao Tsuchiya

Cover of “Kage no kokuhatsu”. It’s difficult to identify what is on the cover. We have a white background and a massive black form painted on it, but I can’t say what it represents. In the center of the black form, there is a white rectangle with the black figure of a man upside down in it.

Title: 『影の告発』(かげのこくはつ)
Author: Takao TSUCHIYA (土屋隆夫)
Published by 講談社文庫

『影の告発』is the first book in the Prosecutor Chigusa series (千草検事シリーズ), it won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1963.

When a man is killed in the elevator of a department store full of people, the police has surprisingly little to get going: a visit card left in the elevator and an old photograph


If you like police investigation, this book is for you! There is nothing really original or mind blowing in this book, but it delivers exactly what the reader of detective novels is looking for and it does it very well.

The story is very straightforward, we have a murder at the beginning of the story, and then we follow the prosecutor and the detectives as they investigate the case.

The book contains everything you want to find in a good investigation like interrogating persons related to the case, digging up the past, putting clues together… with things culminating in an epic alibi war. We also have the bonus of the mystery of the visiting card, which was very engrossing in itself.

Funny thing is that the alibi part reminded me of scenes that I have read in Conan, and now I wonder if this particular scene in Gosho Aoyama’s manga was not a reference/homage to Takao Tsuchiya.

Every aspect of the investigation is well described and engrossing, the book always goes straight to the point and focuses entirely on the case, which makes the book a real page turner. This is exactly the kind of police investigation that I enjoy reading, and I will continue the series!

Book review: 『細い赤い糸』by Takashi Asuka

Cover of the book 細い赤い糸. The cover is black with the drawing of a woman (head only) looking to the left. There is also the drawing of what I identify as the lower body of a woman (we only see the legs and the skirt). The composition is quite strange with the head on the left, and the lower body sort of hanging from the top border of the cover.

Title: 細い赤い糸 (ほそいあかいいと)
Author: Takashi Asuka (飛鳥高)
Published by Kodansha bunko

細い赤い糸 won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1962.


When I read a mystery, I always jump into the story without reading the synopsis and without having any knowledge of the plot. I do this because I had some bad experiences with summaries on the back cover revealing too much, sometimes mentioning events that would only take place halfway through the book. I also like reading without knowing where the story would take me.

With this novel however, I wish I had read about the story before starting it. I was really close to giving it up halfway through, because I could not see where the story was going and the experience was a bit frustrating.

If you don’t want to know anything about the story of this book before reading it, you should stop reading this review now. However, I do think that this book is more enjoyable if you know where you are going.

This book opens with a story of corruption in a company. To be honest, I really had a hard time getting into the first chapter, we don’t know much about the corruption thing, and the novel just does not tell us enough about it to make us care. Same for the characters, I did not really care about them, and their actions seemed unconvincing because we don’t know them at all. I did not like the first chapter, but I was willing to wait and see.

Then the second chapter starts with completely different characters who have nothing to do with the first story. It felt frustrating because I was doing my best to find some interest in the first story, and we suddenly leave them here and switch to another story which I found equally difficult to get into. At this point, I was really tempted to give up the book, but the end of the second chapter finally reveals what it is all about: a serial killing.

This is the main point of the book. We get through four different stories and see four different characters who are all going to be a victim. The focus of the book is to know why they are killed and what could possibly link them together. I do think that if you know that before starting the novel, things becomes much more interesting as you can start looking for clues right from the beginning. It also makes sense, in a way, that each story seems rushed through, because the main topic lies elsewhere.

When I understood where the book was leading me, I started enjoying it much more. However, I also do think that, while the idea is excellent, the execution could have been better done. First, I find the book too short for its purpose. I would have been better if each story was a little bit more developed so that they would be interesting for themselves and not just as a part of a higher scheme. I also find that something should hold all these stories together. At the end of each chapter, we see the police investigating and eventually understanding that they are dealing with a serial killer, but these parts are very short, and you start seeing a pattern only at the end of the second chapter (at this point, we are more than 40% into the book).

Finally, the book just does not give enough clues. It is not impossible for the reader to work the solution for themselves, but you can only do that after a certain point, when some key elements are finally given. It would have been so much better if more clues had been laid all along, so that reading each story would have been more compelling. I could even see myself re-reading one of the first chapters to look for connections, but I felt that you cannot really see the link before the novel gives you some key information.

In the end, the solution turned out to be quite good, and I loved the last 25% of the book, when we are done with the different stories and follow the police investigation. I found this part very engrossing and I liked the solution as well. I just found that it was a bit unfair to the reader, as the story does not disclose some key elements until the end and some connections are difficult to make without them.

Book review: 『人喰い』by Saho Sasazawa

The cover of 人喰い. The cover is very simple: on a completely black background, two thick horizontal blue lines and the name of the author and the title of the book written in red on the black background. No illustration.

Quick facts

Title: 『人喰い』(ひとぐい)
Author: Saho Sasazawa (笹沢佐保)
Digital edition published by P+D Books

『人喰い』won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1961. After winning the prize, Saho Sasazawa resigned from his post at the Postal Ministry to become a full-time writer.


『人喰い』is a short novel with a simple plot and a small number of characters. We follow Sakiko, whose elder sister has disappeared, leaving a suicide note. The story is very straightforward, the narration rarely switches focus and the investigation mostly relies on deduction more than clues or interrogation of witnesses.

I really enjoyed this book, especially because the last winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award I read was going in too many directions in my opinion: there were a lot of different topics, different leads and motives, no consistency in the characters we followed. As a result, I appreciated the simpler line of this one, even though one could also argue that it has too few characters, which makes the outcome a bit foreseeable.

Sakiko’s means to investigate are very limited, so a good part of her investigation is based on reflexion, with scenes where we see her think about the case through and through, testing eventualities and work her way to the truth. I found these parts well done and enjoyable to read.

The end was also very good, and overall, it was a very pleasant read, though part of me also find it surprising that it won the Award (the book is good, but there is really nothing special in it either). Maybe I am expecting too much from the award winners and end up a bit disappointed as a result? Anyway, it is still a nice mystery that I recommend if you like the genre.

Book review: 『黒い白鳥』by Tetsuya Ayukawa

Cover of the book 黒い白鳥. The cover is red with the title and author in a white rectangle in the middle. Also in the rectangle, a drawing of a railway track with a tran in the distance and the figure of a man in the foreground.

Title: 『黒い白鳥』(くろいはくちょう)
Author: Tetsuya Ayukawa (鮎川哲也)
Published by Kobunsha.

『黒い白鳥』is the fourth book in the Chief Inspector Onitsura (鬼貫警部) series, a series of 17 novels and numerous short stories spanning more than 30 years.

Both this novel and another Onitsura book won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1960.


The mystery/police investigation in this novel is very good, the solution is clever, with one trick in particular that I found excellent, and the reader is given all the elements they need to participate.

The mystery mostly resolves around train timetables, and unfortunately, I was too lazy to really try to work out a solution by myself. While this might be the main reason why I did not enjoy this novel as much as expected, there are also other elements that prevented me from feeling engrossed in the story.

First of all, I found that the novel throws several leads at us but does not really commit to any of them. The first one, which looks like it is going to play an important role in the story, is the trade union and negotiations between the company and the workers. Then we have religion playing a role with employees asking for freedom of religion (this took me a while to understand, because I was not aware that a company could impose a religion on its employees!). This makes for a complex and interesting setting for a murder story, but the story then moves on to other topics and we never really come back to this interesting setting.

Similar thing happens with the characters. The story opens with two women, one of which will clearly play a role in the story. We leave her in a difficult situation, but we won’t see her again until much later in the novel. Most of the novel is told from the point of view of the police detectives, but at some point, we follow other characters for a short sequence, and go back to following detectives. Even the detectives are split in two groups, and this did not really work for me (I prefer following the same duo of detectives from beginning to end, rather than follow one duo and then abruptly switch to another).

I also felt that the real purpose of a lot of scenes was the social aspect of what was described rather than the investigation itself, which sometimes felt a bit arduous. It often felt like the author just wanted to describe something, be it a place, a movement (like the labour movement), a professional area, etc. for the sake of the description rather than to advance the plot. The novel explores a lot of different social classes, and some passages felt like describing all of this was the real purpose of the book, and the investigation just a means to do it. So sometimes, we will have a long description of a certain place and little useful information relative to the case.

This makes for a good social novel, and it is great if you want to have a picture of the time, but it also felt frustrating to go through so many steps and descriptions just to confirm that what a certain character had said was true, or something of the sort.

I do think that this is a good detective novel overall, I just did not enjoy reading it that much. The end was good though, and I don’t regret reading it nor was I tempted to DNF it. However, I did not make me want to read the other prize winner of the same year (same author, same series), and I doubt that I will continue the Onitsura series.

『七つの会議』by Jun Ikeido

Cover of the book 七つの会議. The cover is beige with a darker drawing of a long table seen from above with empty chairs around it.

Quick Facts

Like most (or maybe all?) books by Jun Ikeido, 『七つの会議』got a TV adaptation. Contrary to the other novels I have read by this author, this one is not much about banks and loans.

Title: 『七つの会議』(ななつのかいぎ)
Author: Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤)
Published by Shueisha


Tokyo Kenden is an old-school company where sales and profit matter more than anything else. Everyone is shocked when a complaint of power harassment is made against the company’s top sales manager… but several employees sense that something else is going on.

This is an ensemble cast, where each chapter is devoted to a different character. Except for one character, they are all employees at Tokyo Kenden.

I find that this structure brings interesting elements to the novel. First, we see different aspects of the company, and we approach the problem from different perspectives. Some characters are right in the middle of the plot, others will risk their career to discover the truth. We see the company as a whole and how each employee contribute to making it work, and contribute to revealing (or hiding!) what is really going on.

What I really like is that the author gives a background for each character. Their story, their past, their personality influence their action. Sometimes it is their career, sometimes their family, but they all have a reason for acting like they do and make the choices they make. This is interesting, as we see both the company as a whole and how each individual influence it.

The problem with this ensemble cast structure, is that it is difficult to identify with one character, and the story was less engrossing to me as a result. It also did not have this fight-for-justice energy that other books have. The other two books I read by Ikeido are 『空飛ぶタイヤ』and 『アキラとあきら』and both books were a rollercoaster of emotions. In comparison, I found that I was much less involved in 『七つの会議』, which is strange because it reads like a mystery, which is my favourite genre.

Overall, the story is excellent, and it is not hard to imagine that fiction might not be very far from reality. But to me, this novel lacked something compared to the other two. I was not as emotionally involved, and I did not care about the characters as much. I also found that one chapter (the third one), was strangely disconnected and not as interesting as the other ones.

I am on Mastodon!

Post illustration created by Dall-e. The orientation of the book is off, but I like this illustration very much!

I am not on many social media, and the only one that I have used consistently is Twitter. With the recent events happening over there, I did what many did: I opened an account on Mastodon.

This is my Mastodon account

I’ve been using it for ten days now, and I am really loving the experience there. I’ve put together some of the features that I particularly love, and how I am using Mastodon, but as I am very new to it still, feel free to correct me if I am mistaken. Also, it looks like the app does not work well and does not give access to all the features. I am using the browser directly (Safari).

When I opened an account on Mastodon, it felt very lonely at first. I felt like I was the only one learning Japanese and that no one would be interested in hearing about Japanese or Korean novels. I joined a small server of 100 people (, but I did not dare posting at first because I was afraid to pollute their local timeline with my niche content, haha. But with more and more people coming from Twitter, the 100 people on our server became 10,000 (!) and things became suddenly more lively, with a growing community of language learners finding themselves through #langtoot and #languagelearning.

The best thing on Mastodon is that there is no algorithm deciding what to show you. No content is pushed to you in order to make you spend more time on the platform and generate profit. You can favourite a post (like), but it is only a way to tell the person that you liked what they wrote, it will not increase the popularity of a post, or how far it can travel. The only way to help a post reach further, is to boost (retweet) it, so that it can reach more persons.

Similarly, you have to use hashtags to allow new people to find your posts.

On the timeline, you cannot see how many stars (the likes, similar to the heart icon on Twitter), or how many boosts a post had. I really like it, because it makes you appreciate a post for its content, not for its popularity. You can see the number of likes and boosts if you click on the post, but they are not prominent, and it is not what matters at all. What matters is just whether you found the content of the post interesting or not.

There are three timelines on Mastodon:

Home: posts from people I follow.

Local Timeline: posts from people on my server.

Federated Timeline: A lot of posts from a lot of people… I’m not sure to be honest, I never use it.

Ideally, you join a server restricted to a topic that interest you. For example, let’s imagine that there is a server devoted to language learning. This means that all, or at least most, of the posts in your local timeline will be about language learning or posted by people who are into language learning.

In parallel, you are perfectly free to follow people that are not on your server. For example, I am also interested in fountain pens and ink, literature, cats, etc. I can follow people who post about these topics and see their posts on my Home.

Unfortunately, there is no server devoted to language learning yet. So what I did is join a general server (not restricted to a topic), and I manually follow people who are into language learning or anything related to Japan/Japanese. This means that my local timeline is a bit more random, with people with all sorts of interests, whereas my Home is only about topics that I am interested in.

There are some features on Mastodon that also improve your experience and allow you to connect more easily with people who share similar interests.

  • You can follow hashtags! This is a fantastic feature that allows you to easily find new people to follow, or simply see single posts related to this topic but from people whom you might not necessarily want to follow. I personally follow #langtoot, #languagelearning, #Japanese, #Korean and a couple more.
  • You can add feature hashtags on your account. I personally added #Japanese, #Korean, #Chinese and #Books. When people arrive on your account, they will see your posts and the ones you boosted. But let’s say that someone only wants to see what I posted about Japanese, and they are not interested in my posts about Korean or Chinese. They can choose the option #Japanese and will only see my posts with this hashtag. They can also see how many posts I published with this hashtag, so they know if this is a topic I discuss often or not. (This only seems to appear when I am on ipad, not on my phone though.)
  • You can create lists. If you follow a lot of people and don’t always have the time to scroll through your Home, you can create lists of people by topics for example, or a list of people whose posts you don’t want to miss. I follow a lot of language learners because I am interested in language learning in general, even if I am not myself learning these languages. But obviously, I am even more interested in posts about learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese. So I created a list for these three languages and added the people who learn them.
  • In any timeline, you can choose whether or not you want to see posts that have been boosted. Boosting is great, because it is the only way to increase the visibility of a post, but your Home can sometimes feel overwhelming if people are boosting a lot. If you need to, you can toggle the boosts off, and you will only see the posts effectively posted by people you follow.
  • You can decide who can see your reply to posts, from anyone to the person you’re replying to only.
  • You can add a note to people’s profile that only you can see. I haven’t used it yet, but it could be useful to write something like “the person who recommended this book to me”, so you can go back to them if you read the book.

As a result, I have many ways to spend time on Mastodon.

  • I have a lot of time and just want to spend time on social media: I can scroll through the local timeline and see posts from people who share the values of the server like “sharing knowledge”, “positivity”, and “bettering each other”.
  • Most of the time, I only read posts on my Home with the boosts toggled on. This way, I see posts from people I follow and the posts they boosted, as well as posts with the hashtags that I follow.
  • Let’s say I have less time, or I haven’t been online for some time and there’s a lot to catch up on. I toggle off the boosts and have much less posts to go through. I often do this in the morning, because due to time zone, there’s always a lot happening while I sleep and it can feel daunting to catch up.
  • If I really don’t have much time, but want to check out what people who learn Japanese are up to, I only go through my list. Here again, I can choose whether I want to see the boosts or not.

For someone like me, who does not spend much time on social media as a baseline, but who still wants to stay in touch with people who share common hobbies, Mastodon is the perfect place.

It is a lot of work to find people to connect with, but the experience is also very rewarding, because the number of likes and followers does not feel as important as interacting with people, sharing knowledge and experiences. For language learners in particular, people are very active at the moment to re-create the #langtwt community on Mastodon (#langtoot). If you are new, write an #introduction post with hashtags, and people will find you.

I am still on Twitter, because a lot of people I follow and whose content I really love are not on Mastodon (yet), but if they were, I could see myself changing completely 🙂

Reading update and November plans

Post illustration created by Dall-e.

I have not been very motivated to read lately, hopefully this will change! I did start a promising book, so let’s hope it will be engrossing enough to make me read more.

The book in question is 『蒸発』by Shizuko Natsuki (夏樹静子). She is apparently best known in the English-speaking world for her novel Murder at Mt. Fuji, (translated by Robert B. Rohmer), but it is the first time that I am reading this author.

『蒸発』has won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1973. I have only read 126 pages out of the 486 pages of the novel so far, but it is excellent, with a good mix of mystery and character building.

In the novel, the term 蒸発 (じょうはつ: evaporation /mysterious disappearance) is explained as a trendy term (in 1970) used to talk about the people who disappeared, included those whose disappearance has not been reported to the police.

I looked a bit further, and found a site explaining the difference between several words meaning “disappearance”:

行方不明・ゆくえふめい: The reason why the person disappeared is completely unknown. The person could have disappeared intentionally, or they could have been victim of a crime or accident.

蒸発・じょうはつ: the person disappeared intentionally, but the reason for their disappearance is completely unknown. The person is not considered to be involved in an accident or criminal case.

失踪・しっそう: the person disappeared intentionally and is not involved in an accident or criminal case. Even though the reason for their disappearance is unknown, people who knew the person like family members and colleagues can, to a certain extent, guess what the reason is.

家出・いえで: the reason for the person’s disappearance is easy to guess. They often come back eventually or, if they don’t, they still maintain a social life.

駆け落ち・かけおち: The reason for the disappearance is known: lovers who didn’t get their parents’ approval run away to live together or get married.

Finally, the term 夜逃げ・よにげ is just describing a way (by night) by which people intentionally disappear. I see this word quite often in novels, and if you don’t play Animal Crossing for a while and then come back, the “コワイ” character would say he thought you had 夜逃げ.

According to the same site, the term 蒸発 has started to be widely used as “disappearance” (and not just “evaporation”) with the film 『人間蒸発』(1967). This film is a pseudo-documentary (Japanese word is モキュメンタリー for “mockumentary”) about a woman looking for her fiancé who has disappeared.

Anyway, it was interesting to learn all these nuances. My goal is to finish 『蒸発』and read two other Japanese books this month, that I have ordered (but not received yet).


I finished 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the novel. It was suspenseful, funny, and the time loop was really well done. I kept wanting the character to go further and learn the truth while also enjoying seeing him failing and doing everything all over again.

The end is not bad, but there is clearly a shift in the narrative and even the genre changed a little. It felt like reading a completely different novel, one that was less my kind of book.

Still, I found the book overall entertaining and both classic in its genre (the zombie situation in there is pretty much what you would expect) and also original and unique (the time loop brings an exciting aspect to the story). Except for the last part, which again felt like reading a different story, the book is very easy to read, with a lot of recurring scenes, hence recurring vocabulary.

The prompt for November #22tlreadingchallenge is “a book with a movie”, but I could not find anything that I wanted to read or watch. As I was not super motivated to start a Korean novel anyway, I decided to just continue reading Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo (遠藤達哉) in Korean for this month’s challenge (translated by 서현아).

I was hoping that there might be Korean dubs for the series, but I only have access to the Japanese version with Korean subtitles. In the end, it is actually more fun this way. I am first reading the Korean translation, then I watch the series in Japanese with Korean subtitles.

I don’t know if I will be able to catch up with the 10 volumes this month, but I’ll try to read as many as possible. I have already read the first 4 volumes.

Finally, these are the books that I have finished recently.

First, I finished 『乱れからくり』by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫) and ended up not really liking it. I was hoping that it would be a murder mystery where mechanisms (like toys, labyrinth, etc.) would play a part, but it feels more like the reverse. Parts explaining the history and particularities of mechanical toys where a bit too long and detailed, and the murders occurring in the novel felt strangely anecdotical. It was hard to understand the characters’ actions and reactions to things, and I also disliked our protagonist.

Unfortunately, I feel like most of the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far fall in this category of books that were okay, but not astoundingly good. I enjoyed reading most of them, and even 『乱れからくり』did not make me want to DNF it, but they are not extraordinary good either. I must say that for now, I am a little disappointed by the selection, but on the other hand, it lets me read authors that I didn’t know and would not have read otherwise.

I also picked up 『迷宮』by Fuminori Nakamura (中村文則) because it just got translated into Korean and I saw the Korean version in a bookstore. Upon reading the summary, I thought it would be a book for me, and I ordered the original version on the bookstore website instead of buying the translation.

The summary had caught my eye when I read it in Korean. It looked like a good howdunnit, with a locked-room mystery and a very intriguing setting for a murder. The mystery is good, but this is not really this kind of book either. It is much darker than I had expected, and quite depressive too. I don’t think that this book is for everyone as it deals with childhood trauma and abuse.

If you are looking for an exciting locked-room mystery, you can certainly find other books that are not so heavy. I personally liked the book, but it did not make me want to read other books by this author, or at least not in the near future.

Finally, I want to read books that deal with time, so I picked up a classic: 『時をかける少女』by Yasutaka Tsutsui (筒井康隆). It is a novella of 115 pages first serialised in 1965 and published in 1967. The story feels surprisingly contemporary, I was shocked when I learned that it was written more than 50 years ago!

The story is very good and really engrossing. The end was less convincing to me, but I still enjoyed reading it from start to finish, even though I am neither a big reader of light novel nor a fan of SF.

There are numerous adaptations, including an anime movie from 2006.

The book was easy to read, and it is available in the Tsubasa collection, which has complete furigana.

And that’s it! My goal for November is to finish 『蒸発』, and it will certainly be the only award winner that I am reading this month (because it is quite long). In parallel, I hope to finish the two books I have ordered this month as well.

Finished two books, started two more!

Post illustration created by Dall-E.

I finished 홍학의 자리 by 정해연, and it was excellent! I read it as part of the #22tlreadingchallenge, and I really recommend it to fans murder mysteries and crime investigations.

When I finish a book, I often like to have a look at the reviews posted by readers. For 홍학의 자리, I found people saying that they were disappointed by the “shocking twist” promised by the publisher.

The commercial banner for the book promises a 충격 반전 (shocking twist) and warns that 스포 절대 금지! (Spoilers are strictly prohibited!). It advertises a 전무후무한 반전과 예측 불가능한 결말 (a twist never seen before and an ending impossible to predict) and adds again that this is 최고의 반전 소설 (the best novel with a twist).

I understand that publishers have to advertise their books, but they sometimes tend to promise more than the book (which can be a really good book) was meant to deliver.

If you read 홍학의 자리 for the big twist, I guess you might be disappointed. It sure takes you by surprise, but it is not shocking in the sense that you see the whole novel in a different light, that you immediately flip back pages to re-read passages, and that suddenly, the whole murder case takes a different meaning. It is strangely not really related to the case, and does not feel necessary at all.

This is clearly not the best novel with a twist that I have read, but it is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and engrossing murder investigation that I have read in Korean or Japanese. I did start to have a good idea of what happened at some point, but I did not get everything right and some elements of the end did surprise me.

The novel is also really easy to read, it definitely belongs to the list of easiest books that I have read in Korean. I really loved how the chapters alternate between our protagonist (who finds himself in a very awkward position and has to find a way out of it) and the police detectives (who are really good, it was really a joy to follow their investigation). The chapter are also short, the story has a good pace and the book is a real page-turner. I think that all of this is good enough! It is a shame that the publisher focuses on the twist as if it was the best part of the book.

I also finished 妄想銀行 by Shinichi Hoshi (星新一) and loved it. These are SF short short stories, with an average length of 10 pages. I read this book in my project of reading all the available winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and this one won the prize in 1968.

I must say that I am very surprised that this book should have been eligible for the prize. I guess you could give a very loose definition of “mystery” and say that some of the short short stories in this collection have elements that connect them to the genre, but I am still surprised. All the winners that I have read so far strictly belong to the crime genre and are exactly the books that I expected to find.

I looked at their website to see if there was an explanation but did not find one. However, Shinichi Hoshi’s testimony on receiving the prize is quite funny:

I will not hide that I am a little worried, because I don’t really like SF and I hope that not too many prize winners belong to this genre. Unfortunately, the prize winner of 1974 is 日本沈没 by Sakyo Komatsu (小松左京) 😱 I really don’t feel like reading this novel to be honest. First, again, I don’t love SF. Then, I am afraid that Japan Sinks will be quite difficult to read. And finally, it is relatively long.

I made it a point of honour to read all the books that I could find and to finish them (even the ones that I did not like), but here I will have to skip.

I read Sakyo Komatsu’s testimony, and he says that he was very surprised when he won the prize and immediately telephoned Shinichi Hoshi, who was the first SF writer to have won the award:


In any case, I hope that there won’t be too many SF works among the list of winners. Surely, there are prizes for SF as well. I find it a little bit unfair to give the mystery prize to great works of SF instead of rewarding authors of mystery novels 🤔

Speaking of winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan award, I started 乱れからくり by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫). It won the prize in 1978.

I am trying to read the winners in chronological order to see how the genre has evolved over the years, but I made an exception here. Most of the earlier winners were out of print, and it was impossible for me to find them in paper. As a result, I read them digitally, either on Booklive when available there, or on Bookwalker (If I am given the choice, I prefer Booklive, but some titles were only available on Bookwalker). Now that I am reaching the 1970s, more and more books are available in paper, so I browsed the titles and bought a bunch of them:

I am a bit tired of reading digitally, and when I received my books, I could not wait to start one, even though this means that I am jumping from 1968 to 1978. I will catch up with the others later 🙂

I am almost halfway through 乱れからくり and I am not sure that I am liking it. Something just happened that will certainly boost the story, so hopefully the second half will be more exciting than the first one. It is not bad at all, but I find it hard to connect with the characters and understand some of their actions. The tone is also on the lighter side, whereas I prefer more realistic and serious murder stories. We’ll see! I hope to finish it this month.

Finally, I started another book for the #22tlreadingchallenge: 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). The wrapping band says that it is a 좀비 타임루프 그릴러 (zombie time loop thriller), and it is exactly that! It reminds me of the film Happy Death Day, except that the day resets when the protagonist is bitten by a zombie instead of being killed.

I like zombie films, but I have rarely read novels about zombies. This one is really good, with really good scenes, a good dose of humour too, and the time loop makes things really exciting. It would be great if this novel received a movie adaptation.

외국 영화나 드라마의 좀비들은 느릿한 편이었지만 뭐든 빨리빨리 움직이는 한국에서는 좀비조차도 빨라다.

I am not quite halfway through the book, but I can already recommend it as very entertaining and easy to read. 홍학의 자리 is also on the easy side, but I would say that 재생 is even easier, with the time loop mechanism leading to a lot of recurring vocabulary.

That’s it for now, hopefully I can finish these two last books this month!

Currently reading: one easy and one difficult book

Starting now, I have decided to use DALL-E to illustrate my blog. I used to draw my own illustrations, but it took me too much time, and I started updating my blog less and less because of that.

Now that I don’t have to worry about the drawing part, I will try to post more often. I have decided to replace my monthly wrap-ups with smaller but more regular updates like this one 🙂

Post illustration created by DALL-E.

#22tlreadingchallenge (check out the prompts here)

I am halfway through 홍학의 자리 by 정해연 (Jeong Haeyeon), and it feels really good to finally have a Korean mystery that is both very entertaining and very easy to read. I rarely have to look up words, the reading is smooth, and I can read a bit faster than I usually do with Korean.

The story is quite simple, but it contains everything to make me happy: a good murder, a protagonist who finds himself in an awkward position, police detectives who are actually good, an engrossing investigation and all along, the question “but who killed Dahyeon?”

Let’s hope that the second half will be as good as the first one!

그런데 다현은, 누가 죽였을까?

It was with this kind of book in Japanese that I managed to improve my reading level. Looking at Japanese publications, it was easy to find engrossing mystery novels that were easy to read.

I find it much harder to find Korean mysteries that are similar. They are either engrossing but much too difficult (and they leave me with the impression that my Korean level is too low to read novels), or easy enough but with a story that is not for me.

홍학의 자리 is really the perfect book to me, I wish that I had found more books like this one when I started reading in Korean. I’ll check this author’s other books as well!

Interesting vocabulary
I learned a new word in this novel: 효도폰 (孝道phone), a phone mainly used by elderly people with functions limited to the important tasks like calling someone in case of emergency, communicating with family members, etc. They are meant to be easy to use, with a simpler display. They are generally given by the children to their elderly parents (hence the name “filial piety phone”), but as they are cheaper and not always of good quality, the term 불효폰 (不孝phone) has also appeared to describe them.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award winners – reading project.

On the contrary, the book I am reading in Japanese at the moment is quite difficult to read. Even though my Japanese is better than my Korean, I struggle more with 腐食の構造 by Seiichi Morimura (森村誠一) than with 홍학의 자리. The book is very long (over 600 pages), and the author goes in a lot of detail to explain the tensions between the scientific, political and business world about nuclear power. It is interesting but difficult, and I find that the way information is delivered to the reader is a bit dry.

Instead of being blended with the story, explanations are given in lengthy passages that are difficult to read in Japanese, but also feel like you are reading a non fiction book on nuclear energy and the development of big trading companies in Japan. There is a passage where the author quotes a specialised book (総合商社 by 内田勝敏), which feels really weird in a novel.

Things more directly related to the story are also described in a lot of detail. I just finished a chapter that gives a lot of geographical information. I try to understand as much as I can, but I am also not too worried if I miss details.

I found that the book started strong and seemed interesting, but now I find it a bit slow and not providing enough enjoyment to make up for all the efforts I need to provide in order to read it.

I don’t think that I will finish this book this month, and I will start other Japanese books in parallel as well. My goal now is to focus on finishing 홍학의 자리 and 妄想銀行 by Shinichi Hoshi (星新一), another MWJ award winner that I started at the beginning of October.