Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Voice and Other Stories by Seicho Matsumoto

(pb; 1989, 1995: story anthology. Translated from Japanese to English by Adam Kabat.)

From the back cover:

"Six of the best detective stories from Japan's foremost master of mystery. The puzzle in these intriguing tales lies not so much in 'who dunnit' but rather in how it was done."


Overall review:

Voice is an anthology that is worth owning -- its stories, published between 1959 and 1965, are clever and intriguing reads, even with their 'crime doesn't pay' finishes (perhaps this is due to editorial and/or multicultural leanings). Matsumoto once again shows himself for the exemplary author that he is, even when the outcome follows a traditional, moralistic pattern.


Stories:

1.)  "The Accomplice": A successful businessman (Hikosuke Uchiboro), fearing reprisal stemming from a past crime, seeks a way to nullify that reprisal (which, of course, hastens his potential downfall). Good, tightly-written read.


2.) "The Face": Another successful man -- this one an up-and-coming actor (Riichi Umetani) -- tries to erase all evidence from a past crime. Like Uchiboro in "The Accomplice," Umetani's actions only serve to further endanger himself. Good, tightly-written read, an interesting variation on "Accomplice".


3.)  "The Serial": Intriguing, clever tale about a woman (Yoshiko Shioda), whose expressed interest in an author's work opens her life to an unwanted investigation. One of my favorite stories in this collection, it shares many (reworked) plot elements with Matsumoto's later novel Points and Lines.


4.)  "Beyond All Suspicion": A man (Tadao Kuroi) makes a long-term plan to murder the man who sullied his murdered sister's honor. A solid storyline and otherwise excellent writing make this worth reading.


5.)  "The Voice": Another intriguing and clever tale (for the most part), about a telephone operator (Tomoko Takahashi) who hears and remembers a murderer's voice -- a well-publicized remembrance that may get her killed.

When reading key parts of this story, a modern reader may think, 'Wow, that woman makes some bad choices -- why is she so stupid?' I initially thought this at one point, until I took into account cultural and time period differences: in Japan, losing face is sometimes deemed more important than survival, so what Americans like myself may consider stupidity may have seemed like acceptable risks in Japan in 1959. Bearing this in mind, this is another excellent story, despite a few questionable elements and choices.


6.)  "The Woman Who Wrote Haiku": When a regular contributor stops sending in her poetry, the editors of a magazine grow concerned and investigate. What they discover is a devious plot and other odd circumstances. This is an all-around superb story, one of my favorites in this anthology.

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