Book review: 『天使のナイフ』by Gaku Yakumaru


Title: 『天使のナイフ』(てんしのナイフ)
Author: Gaku Yakumaru 薬丸岳
Published by 講談社文庫

『天使のナイフ』was first published in 2005. It won the Edogawa Rampo Prize and is Gaku Yakumaru’s first novel.

This is the third book I read by this author. The other two were 『誓約』and 『ガーディアン』.


『天使のナイフ』is a good thriller, I found it entertaining and suspenseful. However, there are one or two things bothered me a little…

First of all, this is a novel about Japanese Juvenile Law 少年法. The Juvenile Law states that juvenile offenders are judged by a family court. Those found guilty are sent to juvenile institutions were they receive education for rehabilitation. Until 2008, when a major offence like murder was committed, the family of the victim did not have the right to know the name of the offender, nor to have any information concerning the court proceedings.

This is a fascinating topic, and I have learned a lot about it through Gaku Yakumaru’s novel. However, I also found that the topic was too present in the book, sometimes introduced in artificial ways. For example, a character would appear and have a discussion with our protagonist about the Juvenile Law. This dialogue’s only purpose is clearly to introduce a debate over the pros and cons of a harsher punishment for juvenile offenders, but it does not bring anything else to the story.

I am perfectly alright with having serious debates in my thriller (though I do buy a thriller for the story, not for academic purposes), but I don’t like when the author wants to talk about a certain topic too much (for example, because he consulted many documents about it and wants to share the maximum of his research with the reader…). I would rather read a good thriller without any special topic in it and a good nonfiction book about Juvenile Law rather than a mix of the two.

The story is so much about this particular law, that I found some parts of the plot unconvincing.

I also found that the story was good enough in itself without a need to include debate between characters. Just reading the story makes the reader go through contradicting conclusions, experience the point of view of each position and create an inner debate. There was no need to do the work for us.

The other thing that bothered me a little is that this novel is very similar to 『誓約』. The story, obviously, is different, but some mechanisms are the same, so it was easy for me to see through it. Unfortunately, I already found these mechanisms a little far-fetched in 『誓約』, so I was all the more unimpressed by it in this novel.

This being said, 『天使のナイフ』remains a good thriller that does its job: it is a page-turner, I was engrossed in the story until the end, and overall, I enjoyed reading it. It is just not my favourite one.

Book Review: 『ガーディアン』by Gaku YAKUMARU

About the book

Title: 『ガーディアン』
Author: Gaku YAKUMARU 薬丸岳
Published by 講談社

Gaku YAKUMARU is a popular author of mystery novels and thrillers. Recently, one of his novel has been a huge best-seller in Korea (where I live). The novel is 『誓約』 , and I have read and liked it. When I was in Japan for a short trip earlier this year, I saw that Gaku YAKUMARU had released a new mystery novel, 『ガーディアン』whose topic and setting was very appealing to me.


The story takes place at a middle school, and while the topic of the novel is school bullying, there surprisingly seems to be very little bullying problems in this establishment. We follow several students and professors, in particular professor AKIBA, as the school year progresses and secrets get revealed.


『ガーディアン』 is a great school mystery novel. I loved reading it, it was easy to feel involved in the story of each characters, and it was easy to read in Japanese.

I am interested in the topic of school bullying in Japan, and I think that novels are a good way to try to understand this social issue. 『ガーディアン』has an interesting way of tackling this topic and leaves some questions open as to what is right and wrong. I also liked the end very much.

Apart from the social issue it tackles, 『ガーディアン』is also a good mystery novel. I often took my book to read 20 pages (it was my daily goal) and ended up reading 50 or more (it does not sound much, but it is when you read in a foreign language!).

As for the language level, I found this novel easy to read: there are a lot of dialogues, and I found no difficult part or description. However, there are a lot of characters (both students and professors), so I highly recommend to make a list. While it is not essential to understand the story, it is best to know in which class and year a student is, as well as who their main professor and friends are, so here again you should take notes while reading.

This is the second novel I read by Gaku YAKUMARU, and I liked 『ガーディアン』much more than the other, 『誓約』(review). 『誓約』 had maybe more suspense to it, but I find the story of 『ガーディアン』more interesting and the plot more credible, so I would recommend this one over 『誓約』 . In any case, Gaku YAKUMARU is becoming one of my favourite authors of mystery novels! 

Book Review: 『誓約』by Gaku YAKUMARU 薬丸岳


Title: 『誓約』
Author: Gaku YAKUMARU 薬丸岳
Edited by 幻冬舎文庫

Gaku YAKUMARU is a well-known author of thrillers and mystery novels in Japan. The Korean translation of『誓約』is a huge hit, it was the top-selling novel of the biggest online and offline bookshops of the country.


Satoshi MUKAI lives with his wife and daughter and works in the same bar for 15 years. One day, he receives a letter that will bring back an undesired past into his present life…

Why I liked it

『誓約』 was a suspenseful page-turner, and if you buy mystery novels or thrillers to get entertained, this novel completely does its job.

While I liked the book, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. I think that I had big expectations due to the novel’s success in Korea, but I found that it was just good, not revolutionary good. First of all, there is nothing really new in this novel, it is a classic story of a man whose life is turned apart by a triggering event.

I also found the plot to be a little hard to take in, but this does not prevent the story from being suspenseful and engrossing. To sum up, I found it was a classic thriller, well constructed and efficient, event though it was not very credible.

『誓約』was the first book I read by Gaku YAKUMARU, and I will definitely read his other novels.

Note: I’m going to Japan tomorrow! So this will be my first and last post of the week! See you next week!