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‘Points and Lines’ by Seicho Matsumoto ****

Seicho Matsumoto’s Points and Lines was first published in 1958 in Japanese and it became an instant bestseller and a favourite among mystery/crime literature enthusiasts. Having sold millions of copies worldwide, this book managed to establish Matsumoto as one of the most important post-war Japanese mystery writers.

I had purchased this book years ago, in a very old Greek translation (which I doubt was done directly from Japanese) and I finally got around to reading it last month.

The plot of this book revolves around the mysterious death of a man and a woman in a rather secluded Japanese shore, which, after some initial investigations, is rendered as a couple’s double suicide. However, the protagonist, Detective Mihara, suspects that something of much bigger importance is hidden behind those deaths and begins a more thorough investigation. Could this double suicide be somehow connected to a pretty dark political scandal?

I did enjoy reading this, and, being a rather short read of approximately 200 pages (depending on your edition) it did manage to capture my interest until the final revelation. The whole mystery exuded the feeling and atmosphere of a traditional cosy mystery novel, which felt both nostalgic and outdated at the same time. There were some passages that were a bit tiring and overwhelming, particularly where the author cumulated too much information in too small a space, such as the train schedules and timetables. I found myself skimming through those, not really being able to combine the knowledge of the facts surrounding the deaths with the information about the trains in order to reach a conclusion.

Apart from that, it was pretty fast-paced and the solution at the end left me satisfied. It was really interesting reading such a pioneer novel for the mystery genre in Japan, and especially seeing how literature started to develop in Japan after the war and its dire consequences. One could say that both the atmosphere and the events that take place in this book, all this chaos and disorder that is described, could be a reflection of the general situation as well as of the Japanese psyche in the aftermath of the war.

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