A Man by Keiichiro Hirano, translated by Eli K.P. William
Categories: Mystery, Translated Fiction
First Publication Date: 1 June 2020
Synopsis: Akira Kido is a divorce attorney whose own marriage is in danger of being destroyed by emotional disconnect. With a midlife crisis looming, Kido’s life is upended by the reemergence of a former client, Rié Takemoto. She wants Kido to investigate a dead man—her recently deceased husband, Daisuké. Upon his death she discovered that he’d been living a lie. His name, his past, his entire identity belonged to someone else, a total stranger. The investigation draws Kido into two intriguing mysteries: finding out who Rié’s husband really was and discovering more about the man he pretended to be. Soon, with each new revelation, Kido will come to share the obsession with—and the lure of—erasing one life to create a new one.
I picked this up because I had a free month on Kindle Unlimited, and had a vague memory of having picked this up. I’d recently felt an itch to listen to audiobooks again, so when this was included with audio, it made it to my top of the TBR as I did my chores. The narration was very well done, but I suspect the story reads better in written form.
This slow-paced mystery feels a bit meandering, but nonetheless impactful and full of very interesting twists. It spends time with each prominent character, fleshing out their lives, personalities and feelings. I was absorbed by the story a lot of times, but ended up tired of it, for reasons I explain below.
This had an interesting focus on anti-Korean feelings in Japan, surprisingly so as the author himself is Japanese-born. I liked how the author instilled extra depth into the story, but as the book went on having this hammered in our heads felt preachy instead of naturally being part of the story.
This started off interesting and reminded me of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, with added social criticism of contemporary Japan and the unique point of view of a Korean-born Japanese main character coming to terms with his own identity and place in society. However, the constant preaching, the meandering tone of the book, some open points at the end which did not quite add up to me (some characters’ motivation, for example)
In the end this did feel like a “book written by a man” – as a person who reads mostly books by women, I guess I’m extra atuned to what I judge is unnecessary presence of female nudity (only paintings in this case, but there was SO much of it and so much describing), the way the women characters are written and treated, etc. It did not bother me too much, but it is something that I was conscious of during the read and so stopped me sometimes from fully immersing in the story.