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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Informer

Takagi Akimitsu

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To purchase The Informer

Title: The Informer
Author: Takagi Akimitsu
Genre: Novel
Written: 1965 (Eng. 1971)
Length: 257 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Informer - US
The Informer - UK
The Informer - Canada
  • Japanese title: 密告者
  • Translated by Sadako Mizuguchi

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a solid mystery, quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 24/6/2017 Stephen Mansfield
The Washington Post . 25/7/1999 Katy Munger

  From the Reviews:
  • "Takagi is a superb descriptive writer, and it's always a delight to savor the period detail he evokes in describing not only the superheated commercial air of Tokyo, but also its material features: railway stations, public parks and tenement blocks. (...) Creating a picture not just of a series of crimes, but an epoch, his analysis of market manipulations and industrial espionage offers insights into the business ethos of the times, but when murder is added to the mix, the novel turns into a compelling work of suspense." - Stephen Mansfield, The Japan Times

  • "Takagi writes about both men and women with equal authenticity. He examines their discomfort with the roles society has imposed on them, exposes their inner fears and, most of all, explores their sexual desires. A deeply erotic strain runs through Takagi's books. His characters are often transformed by passion, searching for true romantic fulfillment as a way to find themselves in a conformist society." - Katy Munger, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Takagi Akimitsu wrote a series of novels featuring State Prosecutor Saburo Kirishima; The Informer is the second of these. It takes a while, however, before Kirishima gets involved in this story: he only appears just short of the hundred-page mark in the book, when he is asked to: "take control of the case". The case is one of murder, which has just occurred at that point.
       Takagi takes his good time building up to the murder. The story starts off focused on Shigeo Segawa, an ambitious young man who has been on something of a losing streak. He worked as a trader for a securities corporation, but had to resign after a tebari-gamble he took didn't pay off (tebari being the common but illegal practice where you: "open an account in the name of a non-existent client and start buying and selling shares as if on the orders of that imaginary customer"). He tried to set himself up in his own business, but that went south too; at the start of the novel he's stuck with a low-paying job "as a clerk with a small, shaky company".
       Old friend Kazumi Yamaguchi conveniently runs into him and thinks she might have an opportunity for him: Shinwa Trading Company is looking for someone with the kind of selling background Segawa has, and the pay is twice what he is getting now. The firm is run by a Mikio Sakai -- who, as soon as he meets Segawa, is eager to get him on board.
       It's all a bit murky and fishy -- the money is suspiciously good, even though the firm doesn't seem to have a clear identity ("to date our company has been acting like any other two-year old. We've been poking our fingers into anything that looked nutritious") -- but the salary is hard to resist, and Segawa doesn't mind operating at the blurry edges of the ethical (which is, Takagi suggests, how much of Japanese business operates at the time anyway). So he's then also not too surprised when Sakai reveals that there's a bit more to all this than meets the eye: "Shinwa Trading Company is only the cloak that hides the real thing -- an industrial intelligence agency", engaging in industrial espionage.
       Segawa conveniently has connections to one of Sakai's big targets, the Shichiyo Chemical Company, who are developing a very promising sort of additive. Segawa's connection is with the executive director of that company, Shoichi Ogino -- once his closest friend. Back in the day, Segawa and a woman named Eiko had been a couple, but he had left her because he didn't feel he was wealthy enough to marry her -- and because Ogino also had his eye on her, and was a more appropriate suitor; though heartbroken over the break-up, Eiko did wind up marrying Ogino.
       After not having spoken in ages, Segawa gets back in touch again with Ogino -- and Eiko. The doors that open don't get him right to the carefully guarded secret information he's meant to steal, but into the vicinity: Ogino is surprisingly open and welcoming, and Segawa also gets very friendly with Setsuko Kondo, the researcher working for the head scientist on the secret project.
       Segawa seems to be making progress -- until it all comes crashing down. And getting caught at snooping isn't the worst of it: someone gets murdered, and the last one to see the victim was Segawa, the obvious suspect then.
       That's when Inspector Ishida comes in, leading the police investigation -- and where State Prosecutor Kirishima gets involved, overseeing the investigation and digging around into the case on his own as well.
       Several people stand to benefit from the murder, and while Segawa is the prime suspect, others seem worth considering as well -- especially since Segawa has a fairly solid alibi (though one that is, in fact, invented -- agreed upon with Kazumi Yamaguchi). The police also come to realize that Segawa had started up an affair with his old flame, Eiko, as well -- and the web of relationships further complicates the case.
       A second murder adds to the turmoil -- but the pieces seem to fit together very neatly. When Kirishima realizes that Segawa might have been motivated by industrial spying, Inspector Ishida leaps on the idea: "It makes everything fall immediately into place". So it does -- but Kirishima remains suspicious, and continues sniffing around. Conveniently, too, he has a fiancée, Kyoko Tatsuta, who happens to be friends with Eiko's sister -- and she comes to play a role in the solving of the case as well.
       It's quite cleverly plotted and told, Segawa having been lured into a trap which he struggles to figure out, even once he's caught tight in it. The overlap of relationships makes for a somewhat densely complicated story, but also adds to it, as different agendas, jealousies, and suspicions play out. The mix of traditional Japanese values and the freer (and sometimes more dubious) ones of the 1960s, in both business and personal life, is also well-used and presented, as The Informer offers an interesting glimpse of the Japan of that time. The variety -- both in character and behavior -- of female figures, in particular, impresses.
       If a bit far-fetched, The Informer has a lot to offer and holds up well as both mystery and picture of the times.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 January 2024

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The Informer: Reviews: Other books by Takagi Akimitsu under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Takagi Akimitsu (高木彬光) lived 1920 to 1995.

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© 2024 the complete review

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