Yoshinobu Mikami is struggling. He is not coping well with his transfer from Criminal Investigator to Press Director for Administrative Affairs. Not only does he miss his work as a detective, but he hates the tiny trickle of information he is given to feed the rabid cluster of reporters who hound him for details. With the impending statute of limitations on the kidnapping case “Six Four”, and the commissioner coming to visit Mikami has to somehow make peace between the two departments. The death of the kidnapped girl hangs over all, and the criminal is still roaming free. To top it all off, Mikami’s daughter, Ayumi, has run away from home. He and his wife, Minako, live around the absence of their daughter, barely functioning as a family.
Six Four is an ambitious novel. At just over six hundred pages, it’s an observation of the Japanese police force and Japanese society, as much it is a narrative of Mikami’s progression as a man and an officer. Closing in on the fourteenth anniversary of the Six Four kidnapping the police are scrambling to compensate for the terrible events that occurred on their watch all those years ago. As Mikami digs deeper into Six Four, the truths he thought he knew about the force begin to crumble away. Caught in the petty office politics between Criminal Investigations and Administrative Affairs he is forced to decide where his loyalties lie.
The mystery surrounding Six Four unravels slowly. Yokoyama examines crime as well as the bureaucratic and political hoops that surround it. The measured progression of the novel allows you to sink slowly into the story, absorbing the narrative as Yokoyama fleshes out the details of multiple mysteries around you. Mikami’s step by step descent into the truth of the looming case is detailed meticulously which, when coupled with his tendency to overthink every aspect of his decisions can be a bit overwhelming. Not only does he question and cross-question the intentions of those around him, but he’s also trying to find a moral balance in his work. However, over all the minutiae adds to the whole, adding a weight of realism and ensuring that the story remains in your thoughts.
The mystery and office politics are as integral to the narrative as the central issue of parental love, and the lengths to which that love can force parents. Mikami’s own plight with his missing daughter affords him a unique perspective in the case. He sacrifices his desire to return to detective work, instead submitting to the smug demands of his superiors so that he can secure his daughter’s safety through his position in the force. Yet, daily he lives with the fact that the justice system has failed the father of the kidnapped daughter in Six Four. Yokoyama presents this double-edged suffering, emphasizing both the individual and wide-spread repercussions that occur when the justice system fails in its duty. Six Four is a finely-wrought narrative that keeps its hold on you long after you’ve turned the last page. While I bulldozed my way through the six hundred pages, I now wish there were just as many more. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for other translations of Yokoyama’s works.