cover image A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

Seicho Matsumoto, trans. from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-908524-63-8

Why would a woman with a serious heart condition risk her health by climbing a steep hill in an area where she knew no one? That conundrum obsesses Japanese bureaucrat Tsuneo Asai, the hero of this stellar psychological thriller from Matsumoto (Inspector Imanishi Investigates). Asai, a section chief in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, is on a business trip with his boss when word reaches him that his wife, Eiko, who had a heart condition, has died suddenly in Tokyo. Despite the emotional distance in their relationship, the tragedy is a shock to Asai, though not enough to make him put aside his professional obligations before he arranges travel home. Asai questions the official version of her death—that she suffered a heart attack in the street, and collapsed inside a nearby cosmetics store—and figures out that her fatal collapse was triggered by Eiko overexerting herself elsewhere. His pursuit of the truth becomes all-consuming, building to a surprising and immensely satisfying resolution that flows naturally from the book’s complex characterizations. Readers will agree that Matsumoto (1909–1992) deserves his reputation as Japan’s Georges Simenon. (Aug.)