A Quiet Place

Written by Seicho Matsumoto

Review written by Russell James

Russell James has been named “the Godfather of Noir” by Ian Rankin. Russell writes crime novels - about criminals and victims, not the cozy procedural or whodunnit. He is the editor of Great British Fictional Detectives.


A Quiet Place
Bitter Lemon Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: June 9 2016
PBK

The San Francisco Chronicle compared Matsumoto most oddly to Rex Stout and Elmore Leonard, neither of whom write at all like Matsumoto.  For this novel Patricia Highsmith would seem apposite, for once we get to the crime (after 164 pages) we watch the killer fall apart, doing everything wrong and laying a trail where there was no trail before.

Businessman Tsuneo Asai led a quiet life until his younger wife died suddenly of a heart attack.  That of itself was not suspicious but why was she where she was when she died?  At first sight it seemed to be a street leading nowhere in particular, but in a part of town she would not only never visit but which she would avoid.  When Asai goes to the spot he finds things not quite as he would expect.  Something’s wrong but he can’t quite put his finger on what.  He asks questions, doesn’t like the answers, and starts a fuller investigation.

He is no crime story hero: he has no secret life, isn’t tough, but is a previously respectable businessman – and much of the pleasure of this book comes from experiencing everyday Japanese life as it really is (or was: this book was originally written in 1975) with, to western eyes, astonishing deference and stylish courtesies.  Matsumoto has also been called Japan’s Simenon and in Japan his books have sold in the millions.  A Quiet Place is slow, impeccably translated, and a useful introduction into a different kind of crime novel.


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