This long and preachy novel by Miyabe falls far short of expectations. The primary character detective Honma sets out on a hunt for his nephew's fiancee who has gone missing. In the process he learns all about how the Japanese credit system works and how the unwitting are sucked into the whirlpool of debt. He gets a nice long lesson from several characters about how people who are in debt up to their eyeballs are just everyday folks who got caught up in something they didn't realize was so bad for them.
After too many pages of that preachy 'debt is bad' prose, Miyabe sets Honma off in search of the missing fiancee. It's almost miraculous how just when Honma seems to have run into a dead end there is a phone call or some stranger shows up with information that gets his quest restarted. The chapters essentially follow the cycle: "Honma starts out with some information. The information leads to some small clue, but the clue doesn't seem to lead anywhere and the information runs out. A miracle happens and Honma gets some new information." The story gets tiring as this chapter format keeps repeating itself.
Miyabe introduces characters like Shoko Sekine's friends, but they don't seem to have any real relation to the plot except to give miraculous information as explained above. Frankly, by the end of the book it was difficult to discern who the author was talking about since there were so many phonecalls from so-and-so and contacts from such-and-such. The whole story began to unravel towards the end with so many loose ends crowding out the main story.
The end of the story itself is incredibly unsatisfying. After putting up with Miyabe's excessive use of secondary characters and miraculous clues and outright preachiness, she comes to the point of the story wherein the payoff is expected. Then she cuts it short. No payoff, no conclusion, just Honma sitting in a cafe across from the missing fiancee. He gets up to go talk to her finally, and ... the end.
Maybe Miyabe wanted the reader to use their own imagination to fill in the last gap, or felt that perhaps since there was so much information already given that simply repeating it at the end would have been redundant, or whatever. Unfortunately, as a reader I felt a little ripped off. There were serious questions as to why the fiancee did what she did. Not only that, but what are the repercussions of what she did? Will Honma go to the police (yes, he's a police) with the information he has? What will she do from now?
Such questions are left unanswered. I feel that after the work the reader has to go through just to get to that unsatisfying, completely incomplete ending justifies this low rating.
2 stars. Manipulative and preachy.