The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa and Simon Grove (translator)
|The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa and Simon Grove (translator)|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Proof Pushkin Vertigo can resurrect quality tales, as well as bring them to us with new translations. This piece, with a bed-hopping chap finding too many dead women in his life, is really good fun, if you're not the impatient type.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: April 2018|
|Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo|
Japan, the early 1960s. The prologue of this book sets us up in a lovely way with a world of both innocence and seedy nightclubs. When a young girl enters one alone for a drink she ends up singing along with the musical duet doing the rounds of the venues for tips – as does a man with a distinctive bass voice. They leave together. Six months later, she clings to a balcony at work, thinks about it – and drops to her death in suicide. She was pregnant. But the man involved, a rampant womaniser with an intricate diary of all his comings and goings, is not having a perfect time, either. He returns to an old flame, to find her murdered – and then the lady who would be his alibi for that death also gets killed, and so on. From our point of view, he cannot be a killer of ladies, as the title might imply – but what else could it mean?
There's a great and distinct timbre to this book that strikes the reader, which mostly comes from the structure of it. Never throughout the drama is the cleverness of the murderer shown in operation, but rather it's in the background, and is over long before anyone else knows there's a criminal case being played out. It all leaves the womaniser in quite a noirish place, which is certainly more entertaining for us to experience than it is for him.
It does mean the second half of the book can be a little too jarring a change – when we get introduced to a lowly legal attorney, Hajime Shinji, and the procedural he has to undergo to get evidence for the courts. But that isn't the only major switch in emphasis for the case, nor the only bravura variation in proceedings…
Yes, from that you can surmise there is a lot I just dare not start to talk about, for want of spoilers. Rest assured nothing in these pages spoils the book – even if it was written in the 1960s, translated in the 1980s, and given afresh to us in 2018 it doesn't seem too dated; and it certainly has the cleverness ultimately to keep a genre reader really satisfied. The style of the writing does mean the author includes far too many references to areas of her Japanese city, as if we can piece Shinji's journey around on his trail of evidence. But I took to this a lot more successfully than to the other work of this author from Pushkin Vertigo – The Master Key – which I ultimately found too jumpy, too quirky and all-told too out there for my tastes. This, however, despite some instances where I might want things to have been curter, or less jolting a change, was certainly to my taste. A strong four stars.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Parry is something different – a true crime case you may well remember, that opened doors to a shady side of Japan.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa and Simon Grove (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa and Simon Grove (translator) at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.