Japanese mystery novelist Yokoyama (Six Four, 2017) delivers a terse tale of journalism and tragedy.
Yokoyama worked as a newspaper reporter for years before leaving to write thrillers, and here he recalls a tale straight from the headlines: the crash, then the world’s deadliest, of an airplane on a mountain. As we know from The Eiger Sanction, mountains are places that can bring out noble instincts but are generally scary. Not that that keeps Kazumasa Yuuki from heading there, testing himself against the “treacherously difficult” rock as a climber, watching the memorial lists of would-be alpinists grow. A disaffected reporter–turned-editor, Yuuki takes the lead when Japan Airlines Flight 123 meets that rock, a story that pits him and his team at the provincial North Kanto Times against the airline, its executives desperate to excuse themselves from responsibility, and against the management of the newspaper itself. The former is comparatively easy to overcome as Yuuki’s fellow reporters turn up evidence of corner-cutting maintenance. As for the latter—well, the bosses protect their own, as Yuuki learns when, three days into his special reports on the crash, he’s told to take the story off the front page in favor of a story about a politician’s visit to a local shrine. “The seeds of powerlessness had been planted in his heart,” writes Yokoyama, “and they were steadily growing.” Yuuki finds himself and his lost resolve in that field of corpses: He rebels, concocting a spy caper–worthy stratagem to get around the bosses. Yokoyama’s tale is slow to unfold, and it’s less fraught with peril than the usual mystery, but as a roman à clef it speaks to his hope, as he writes in the preface, that "the reader will witness both the positive and negative essence of human nature.”
A pleaser for fans of yarns about and by gumshoes on deadline, from All the President’s Men to Michael Connelly’s hard-boiled Harry Bosch novels. Maybe not a book to take along on a flight, though.