Take this as a preview rather than a review. Why, this book has not been translated into English yet. The prominent Japanese mystery writer Keigo Higashino has written more than sixty novels but only eleven had been translated and published in English so far.
The latest, A Death in Tokyo, was published in Dec. 2022 by Minotaur Books. Its original Japanese title 麒麟の翼 (The Wing of the Kirin) was actually published in Japan more than ten years ago in 2011. I’ve read eight of Higashino’s translated mystery, including A Death in Tokyo. So, after finishing it, I thought I would have to wait a few years before I have the chance to devour another.
That’s why I couldn’t believe what I found when I came across The Swan and the Bat in our local library. Not sure if it’s Higashino’s latest but it was published in Japan in 2021, and translated into Traditional Chinese language published in Taiwan in 2022. And it’s brand new, beautiful and untouched in its transparent plastic wrap.
Here’s the synopsis of the story. A respected lawyer in Tokyo is murdered. Not long after that, a man goes to the police and gives himself up, confessing that he’s the murderer and not only that, revealing that he had committed a previous unsolved murder thirty years ago. The novel touches on issues such as the propriety of the statute of limitations, and the impact of crime on the victim’s family as well as the culprit’s. The puzzling thing is, why does this man take the initiative to go to the police and offer his confession on both crimes?
Not sure what the future English translation will be like but reading the Chinese version, there are words and concepts we seldom find in mystery novels written in English: sin and redemption, guilt and forgiveness, and the readiness to offer apology. Characters are bound more by their conscience than the law. In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskalnikov gets away with murder for a while, trying to rationalize his way out of psychological torments. Higashino’s character does not rationalize but sacrifice.
A thoroughly intriguing read. Different from previous Higashino’s novels in that The Swan and the Bat has a more contemporary setting where social media plays a major role in the court of public opinion, radiating added pain in the victim’s and the perpetrator’s family. Rather than depending on the police to solve the crimes, two people from families on opposing sides of the adversarial legal system play Sherlock on their own, making the novel more complex and captivating.
If this will be translated into English in the future, I would not hesitate to read it again. The Swan and the Bat (title might be changed in the English version) has become my best Keigo Higashino book replacing The Devotion of Suspect X which sits securely in second place.
Thank you to Dolce Bellezza for hosting Japanese Literature Challenge for the sixteenth year.