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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Name of the Game
is a Kidnapping


by
Higashino Keigo


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping



Title: The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping
Author: Higashino Keigo
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 238 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping - US
The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping - UK
The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping - Canada
  • Japanese title: ゲームの名は誘拐
  • Translated by Jan Mitsuko Cash

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Our Assessment:

B : fun idea, reasonably well executed

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping is narrated by Shunsuke Sakuma. He works for a PR firm, Cyberplan, and is the project leader of an ambitious publicity campaign for major client Nissei Automobile. The project, an automobile entertainment/amusement park to showcase the company's products, is basically shovel-ready -- when news comes that Executive Vice President Katsutoshi Katsuragi wants to go in a different direction. He is cancelling the automobile park project, and while he's not pulling Nissei's business from Cyberplan, he does want a new team to take over the account -- though as it turns out he's satisfied with Sakuma being replaced as the project leader.
       Sakuma is not pleased. A man with few personal ties -- he drops women as soon as they expect any sort of commitment -- he is dedicated to his work, and proud of his creative ideas. He can't see why Katsuragi would throw this work out and make such an abrupt turn to something else.
       As it turns out, an opportunity to get back at Katsuragi practically falls into lap: he runs into a girl who introduces herself as Juri, Katsuragi's daughter -- though only the daughter of one of his lovers, not one of his wives, which leaves her feeling like an outsider in the household. And he runs into her when she has bolted from home, complaining about how intolerable her situation has become there. While Sakuma debates how to handle the situation, she makes her position clear:

     "I'm not going home, okay, and I need money. I'm ready to do anything."
       The Cyberplan team has a meeting at Nissei the next day, and even Sakuma has to attend, adding to his humiliation. And there Katsuragi gives a taste of his philosophy:
The name of the game we're playing here is none other than business. It requires scrupulous planning and bold action. Since it's a game, we're playing to win. We can't treat it as a joke just because it's a game. In this world, games where you have to put everything on the line are as numerous as the stars. Please, think of this one as such.
       Aside from the fact that Sakuma is surprised that Katsuragi doesn't appear more concerned about his missing daughter he likes the idea of a game -- and of playing against this man. So suddenly Juri's suggestion, of framing her disappearance as a kidnapping -- and cashing in -- sounds even more tempting.
       The game begins. Juri and Sakuma send a ransom demand, and figure out a way of communicating with Katsuragi. Sakuma has to think on the fly, especially about taking the proper precautions, but he's a pretty good game-player, and given that it's a fake kidnapping, with the victim willingly playing along, the challenges aren't too great. Still, it's hard to have everything under control. Juri isn't exactly a handful, but she does complicate matters slghtly, especially in wanting to roam more freely than is presumably wise.
       Meanwhile, Katsuragi isn't entirely inscrutable, but some of his moves -- or lack thereof -- surprise Sakuma. The fact that the media aren't on the case might be understandable -- there might be a blackout in force, or Katsuragi might have managed to avoid them finding out -- but is the police really so good at this that Sakuma can't identify any police presence or activity ? And then there's the fact that for Katsuragi everything seems like business as usual -- at least as far as business goes.
       The game plays out more or less as Sakuma planned it -- though perhaps with a few more twists than he hoped for. Like sleeping with Juri -- maybe such intimate involvement wasn't such a good idea ..... But everything seems to fall in place ... until of course it doesn't.
       Higashino introduces a nice twist in the otherwise almost straightforward kidnapping caper, as Sakuma finds the game he played -- and thinks he won -- may, in fact, have been an entirely different game after all. And his chances in the actual game are maybe not quite so good .....
       Higashino's idea is a clever one, and he plays it out pretty well. Some of the writing is a bit rough, and the back and forth of arranging the money-drop gets a bit cumbersome, but overall the plotting is first rate. If not quite as taut as a truly great thriller, it still has a lot of the elements; the characterizations could be better and the secondary conflict -- in the workplace -- could have been developed and utilized better, but the clues along the way, and the twists, are solid and ultimately quite satisfying.
       Yes, this is a novel with writing that includes cringe-worthy passages such as: "we brought our bodies together and stimulated each other's membranes", but such extremes are thankfully limited. With action twisty enough to keep readers engaged -- and even willing to overlook the rather unbelievable coincidences -- The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping is a satisfying B-thriller.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 March 2017

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Links:

The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping: Other books by Higashino Keigo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Higashino Keigo (東野圭吾) was born in 1958.

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© 2017 the complete review

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