Matsumoto, Seicho. “A Quiet Place”, translated by Louise Heal Kawai, Bitter Lemon Press, 2016.
A Look at Japanese Society
Tsuneo Asai got the news that his wife, Eiko, had died while he was on a business trip to Kobe. This was not totally unexpected because his wife has a heart condition. However, how she died and the circumstances around her death bother Asai. Eiko only left the house twice a week to go to meetings so it was quite strange that she was found dead in a small shop in a section of Tokyo where she never visited. Returning to Tokyo, Asai goes to the shop to apologize for the trouble his wife’s death might have caused and finds out that the Hotel Tachibana was near by and it was known to be a meeting place for secret lovers. As he investigates his wife’s past, he learns that she led something of a double life.
This is so much more than a mystery. We also get a look at the society of Japan as well as the daily life of people there. We learn that Asai felt that there was something very strange about his wife’s death. He found no closure at the shop; rather he is thrown into the mystery that surrounds it.
One of the critics I read calls this a “social mystery” and that is an excellent way at looking at this. It is also quite a stylish mystery. Asai is something of an anomaly—- he is soft-spoken and a family man who writes poetry. His wife’s death drove him to panic ..
Matsumoto describes the workings of the Japanese police who cannot find a motive as to why he was killed. As the pressure on the police to solve this mystery, Asai begins making mistakes. I do not want to say anymore about the plot—-this is a mystery and to summarize the plot would ruin the read for those who want to do so. I can say however that this book pulled me in from the first page and then had me turning pages as quickly as possible hoping to find out what really happened. I must admit that mystery is not among the genres that I read regularly but the fact that this book deals with society and fate made it very special.