The Silent Dead

Written by Tetsuya Honda

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.

The Silent Dead
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99
Released: May 17 2016

Tokyo during a hot summer, a mutilated body is found in a suburban park and later, the remains of eleven other victims are discovered. All are linked to a sinister internet group by the name of Strawberry Night for whom murder is the ultimate thrill. For Lieutenant Reikio, the youngest female homicide detective on the force, this will be the most challenging case of her career. The killer knows her name; meaning it could also be the last.

In Bloody Murder his magisterial survey of the genre Julian Symons expressed the hope that readers of crime fiction would become less parochial in their tastes and discover an interest in what the cops of Tokyo's 87th Precinct might be like. That was back in 1972 and although things have moved on somewhat it is still hard for novels from outside Europe or the US to get the attention they deserve.

This enjoyable novel, the first in a series with a strong following in Honda's native Japan, demonstrates how much we are missing out on as a result.

Some aspects of The Silent Dead do owe a considerable debt to the template Ed McBain created. The setting on the mean streets of a big city where wealth and squalor exist cheek by jowl, and a repertory company of detectives with Reikio as its central figure; and an interest in the comradeship formed by police officers under pressure.

Like McBain, Honda has a superlative feeling for time and place, for the stiff socially constrained America of the 1950’s, he substitutes the economically challenged Japan of the 2000’s. The troubles of modern urban life collide with the complicated dance of tradition; courtesy and shame that characterise Japanese life in a way that, to Western readers, is genuinely fascinating.

This makes for a take on the police procedural that is both familiar and unusual. The plotting is strong and the relationships between the main characters are sufficiently well drawn to promise profitable exploration in the books that follow.

The next instalment in the series, Invisible Rain, is due out in May 2017, it promises to be worth waiting for.

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