Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Honda Tetsuya (誉田 哲也,) : Strawberry Night ; Omicidio a Mizumoto Park (ストロベリーナイト, 2006 )


 Murder in Mizumoto Park, is the first in a series of novels by Honda, which focus on the figure of the Tokyo Homicide Inspector, Reiko Himekawa.

The novel takes place in Tokyo, in the month of August: five parts of which the first three, anticipated in substance by a kind of prologue, with which the one who is understood to be the murderer, completes the murder of his parents , addicts and delinquents lost, then burning them together with the house; she then joins a gang; and finally under the name of F, she becomes the killer of an attraction known as Strawberry Night. In these sorts of prologues, at least at first glance, with a very raw and direct type of language, it would seem to be a novel ideally linked to the hardboiled or to contemporary American crime fiction, and instead.. reading the rest of the five parts of which composes the novel, it can undoubtedly be said that it is a precedural, which in its movements is slow as are the very complex and difficult investigations, and then in the last part it suddenly wakes up and picks up pace up to the absolutely original ending, at least not in line with what one would have expected midway through the book.

For the gloom of the narration, and also for the merciless description of contemporary Japanese society, and of the police force itself, it recalls certain American films, such as Robert Aldrich's The Choirboys and Japanese films such as Ryū Murakami's Tokyo Decadence, and also certain Hillary novels Waugh for the kind of very gray almost black, pessimistic procedural.

Reiko Himekawa is a twenty-seven-year-old Tokyo Police inspector, well liked by her boss, Captain Haruo Imaizumi, leader of Unit 10, of the Homicide Squad: she became an inspector only with her will, but in the still patriarchal Japanese society, she is seen with suspect and even condescendingly, even if in his team he enjoys an excellent relationship with his subordinates and with his superiors. Despite this, her everyday life sees her having a very conflicting relationship with her relatives, as her independence is not so much accepted and instead she is repeatedly asked to get married and return to the home. ,. Precisely this lack of symmetry between her conception of personal and social affirmation and that of her family of origin spurs her even more to find ever greater satisfaction in her work in the police.

So then a case that happens to her in August finds her immediately ready to immerse herself in it, all the more so as she avoids having her relatives in the way: a corpse was found at a crossroads near a small lake, in Mizumoto Park, a corpse wrapped in plastic, in an advanced state of decomposition. It will be discovered that it is a certain Taiichi Kanebara, a thirty-one year old from Nakano, whose completely naked body presents an infinite series of more or less serious wounds up to the fatal one in the neck that slain his throat. Furthermore, very strange thing, he has a huge wound in his belly, inflicted post-mortem, which no one can explain, and the most bizarre hypotheses are made about it, even with regard to drugs. Why was he wrapped in plastic, but left in plain sight, when he could have been thrown in the lake?




Many are wondering, including the inspector, who however reasoning arrives at the reason for the injury. In addition, the lake has a sign which strictly prohibits bathing. It is then that Reiko makes a strange instinctive association: she connects the pond with the death a few days before of a certain Yasuyuki Fukazawa, who had drunk without meaning to some water containing a certain amoeba, which then had literally eaten his brain. What if that was the pond in which the amoeba was present? In that case it could also have been hypothesized that Yasuyuki Fukazawa was the one who should have thrown the body into the pond, but he couldn't do it because in the meantime he was dead. The wound would have been a ploy to prevent the putrefactive gases from inflating the abdomen of the corpse, making it re-emerge. And therefore, it would also have been possible that there was something else on the bottom of the lake. And in general disbelief, Reiko manages to convince the high ranks to do research in the pond, which leads to the discovery of another more decomposed corpse, dating back to at least a month earlier. From the dental impressions, it is also possible to give a name to this second body: it is a very brilliant creative mind in the field of advertising, a certain Yukio Namekawa, a successful thirty-eight year old, with a very high number of women with whom he had sex besides having a wife and lover. This guy, however, he had periods in which he was very down, to which he was however counterbalanced by other periods in which he had a superhuman energy which he poured above all into his work. With the continuation of the investigation, Reiko learns that the period of exaltation of Namekawa always began with the second half of the month, the day in which he was untraceable. What happened on that second Sunday of the month? Reiko will discover that everything is connected to an imaginary "Strawberry Night" website, normally untraceable and located in the so-called deep internet, a site that promises those who view it an unforgettable experience: being able to see someone die live, chosen at random in the public. It is obvious that whoever was not chosen and saw someone else die received an enormous adrenaline rush, consisting in the awareness of having escaped it and at the same time in the willingness to give everything in the month that would follow until another appointment with death from I live. Reiko and the partner that her boss has chosen to work with her, Inspector Katsumata, hated by her, will find themselves working together, and after discovering many other corpses, they will know an uncomfortable truth, the only one for which Yazuka, having learned of this shocking spectacle, had pulled out of it. And in an equally unexpected ending, they will be able to stop murderer and accomplices hidden in the shadows.

Honda's novel, despite the fact that at the beginning it had somewhat shaken me with its very direct and unrefined language (which wanted to be unrefined, to outline such a reality), in reality I really liked it later. It follows Western yellow models in which the precedural is used in very long and complex investigations, in which despite having little as clues, with the power of intuition and deduction, it is possible to reconstruct absolutely little proven truths, only relying on a few clues . Hillary Waugh's novels such as Sleep Long My Love, 1959 or A Rag and a Bone, 1954 would come to mind. , of an audience that enjoys death, also satisfying the risk of being chosen instead of the unfortunate person tied to the center of the lights and tortured to death, even films like Eli Roth's Hostel. In other words, it is a procedural but with very black hues, which also borders on horror (slightly, but as much as it takes to outline a shocking truth, connected with the degeneration of Japanese society, dedicated to work and nothing else and devoid of real stimuli).

Beyond this, in a certain sense it is also a social novel, because it takes a look at society, and its traditional models which sometimes clash clearly with what are the demands of the contemporary world: the woman, who according to parameters Westerners, tends to affirm herself more and more, but which cannot escape both those who would like her at home to raise their children, and those who cannot bear that the affirmation of women takes her away from male authority, and therefore makes fun of his work successes.

Inspector Kensaku Katsumata, inspector of the homicide of the metropolitan police, foreman of Unit 5, interprets this macho attitude, but in the extraordinary finale, he will overturn this license of his, with a hidden attitude, much closer to Reiko, than she herself imagined.

To put it this way, the novel would seem like a little thing, and instead it is a powerful novel, which manages to conquer and outline shocking truths, the most shocking of which, can already be guessed before the murder of the policeman Otsuka, a friend of Reiko, but which then, acclaimed and trumpeted, recalls distant novels and one in particular French from the early twentieth century. In other words, that this novel was not born suddenly like a cabbage, but rests on the very solid foundations of the historicized crime novel of Western origin.

And the murderer? He/she too is the victim of this society which is the daughter of the economic miracle, of a society which is also violent, and which ends up creating many dissociated models. And the murderer is also one of these mentally ill subjects, even treated in a psychiatric hospital, who has cured his own self-harm, with the will to hurt and kill others and who draws his own satisfaction from blood from seeing his world gray and dull, shine with the brilliance of blood. But before being an insane subject, he was a normal person, raped and beaten repeatedly in the family. However, this way of approaching the murderer is not an end in itself. In a certain sense, a parallelism can be drawn between the murderer who curiously in his delirium will associate Reiko with Mako, the only person who in his past had shown her friend, and therefore will save the inspector from certain death, and Reiko herself: in fact both, murderer and policewoman, have a past of violence and abuses in common, which however have generated two different futures: that of F, has materialized in evil, in killing and torturing others; Reiko's, in wanting to become a policewoman, to try to prevent what had happened to her from happening to others as well.

Pietro De Palma


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