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Arden A. (Lady Lake, FL)
Physicist vs. Mathematician
I can understand why this author is so highly regarded in his country. His novel is an intricately woven mental duel between a mathematician, Ishigami, who has contrived a complicated cover up to a crime, and his friend, the physicist Yukawa, who has figured it out, and whose actions bring us to the dramatic finale. The detective on the case, Kusanagi, is a cog in the wheel, at best. One could draw a parallel to “The Gift of the Magi.” Our mathematician sacrifices to the ultimate degree for his unrequited love, Yasuko, and she, in turn, unknowingly offers up her own sacrifices as well. Justice prevails, I think, but in a somewhat disturbing and unsatisfying way. Even so, it was an engrossing read that I would highly recommend.
Molly K. (San Jose, CA)
A Real Whodunnit
I just finished the last page, and I’m glad I got this book. The story promises fascinating characters, a real murder mystery, a plethora of clues for the reader, and a battle of wits between police officers, a high school math teacher, and a physicist. What the story seems in the beginning may not be the same story at the end.
Shirley L. (Norco, LA)
I wish the characters had been more fully developed. The writing becomes tedious at times, and the conversations often seem awkward and austere, with little emotion attached. In other places, the writing seems too casual for the content. Is this a translation problem, perhaps?
The crux of the mystery is a mathematical/logical puzzle: in solving a problem, should a person pursue his own solution or instead, should he analyze and evaluate the solutions of others. I found this concept intellectually challenging and hope that one I get a chance to try it out.
What a fun, intelligent read. Higashino's characters are fully formed and his plot is as taut and satisfying as a perfect geometry proof. The writing is simple and logical but contains so much - the meaning of love, friendship, justice, loyalty, truth. This is a book that stays with you after you finish the last page and makes the reader want to share it with others. I plan to give this book to my son who is working on his PhD in Math. I hope he takes an afternoon away from his work for this nugget of gold.
Vivian Q. (Greer, SC)
I'd read a blurb about this book months ago, added it to my wish list, and was very happy when I won an Advanced Reader's Copy for review. I expected to be wowed by this winner of the Japanese Naoki prize which is similar to the National Book Award.
Patricia S. (New Canaan, CT)
Momentum builds slowly
What I got instead, was a slow, boring and unimaginative read. I had to really push myself to finish it because nothing about the book engaged me - not the story, the characters, and especially not the writing. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
A seemingly perfect crime in Japan is solved through scientific theory by a physicist turned detective as he meets with a mathematics professor, a former university friend. Momentum builds very slowly in this mystery, written in spare Japanese prose, and I couldn't become involved with the characters. I did expect more from this prolific author.
Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
For fans of Nora Roberts
This was advertised as winning the Japanese equivalent to the Nat'l Book Award, so I was expecting something even better than Murakami. Well, this was just juvenile. Nora Roberts, tops. It was written on a 7th grade level, maybe 6th. It had some violence, so it wasn't for young readers, but I kept saying "See Spot run" throughout. The narrative was less than pedestrian--cliches cut and pasted together.
Aprile G. (Northampton, Massachusetts)
Lost in Translation
I mostly laughed because it was so preposterous and the characters were as thin and contrived as the pages they were written on. The basic outline to the story had potential, which was why I gave it two stars instead of one, but it was filled in with a ludicrous mess. The melodramatic ending was hilarious, but not meant to be.
A very quick and engaging read, although the characters aren't very nuanced (not that they really need to be in a murder mystery)and the final chapter falls completely flat and undermines some of the book's good qualities. But the prose often seems stilted--could this be a problem with the translation? I didn't dislike the book, but can't really say I'd highly recommend it.