A fictitious work of nonfiction forms the bulk of this story within a story, in which author Toshikazu Nagae takes interest in a manuscript initially withheld from publication but which sees the light of day more than four years later. Entitled Camus’ Assassin, the work was authored by the young freelance journalist Kurenari Wakahashi and is based on his five-month investigation, launched in November 2009, of a lovers’ suicide that had taken place some seven years before. The charismatic and controversial documentary filmmaker Satoshi Kumakiri had died in the double-suicide attempt, while his young secretary, Nanao Shindō, survived.
Wakahashi begins his investigation at the request of an acquaintance. Although Shindō has made no media appearances in the years since the incident, she agrees to talk with him, and through a series of interviews he begins to suspect that Kumakiri’s death was actually a murder in disguise, carried out by Shindō at someone else’s behest. As the investigation continues, Wakahashi learns that kingpin politician Takashi Kamiyu, who was targeted by Kumakiri in a documentary exposing political corruption, is actually Kumakiri’s father, and had been supporting Kumakiri with infusions of cash. Although Kamiyu has a reputation for sending devotees to rub out his political enemies and others he believes know too much, it seems improbable that he would kill his own son. Wakahashi also learns that while Kumakiri and his wife Sawako, a famous actress, had appeared publicly to be on good terms, she had in fact been a victim of domestic violence on a daily basis. At the same time, the circumstances under which Shindō came to be employed by Kumakiri’s production company remain murky, and she refuses to answer questions about it. Despite the caution flags this raises, Wakahashi finds himself drawn to Shindō, who continues to suffer aftereffects from having ingested massive quantities of drugs. In time, their relationship becomes intimate, but then, as an act of love, Wakahashi kills her and takes a massive dose of pills himself, only to survive and be arrested for murder. He subsequently succeeds in killing himself behind bars, and because it is the work of a murderer, his manuscript is shelved.
Nagae makes masterly use of a mentally unbalanced first-person narrator, and plants anagrams and other clever puzzles all along the way. Shindō, it turns out, is a relative of Sawako who worshiped her as an actress and worked as her assistant; she was apparently dispatched as an assassin by Sawako, and then Wakahashi was in turn drawn in to dispose of Shindō.
This tale of suspense filled with elements of horror and endless intrigue will keep readers’ minds spinning even after they have turned the last page and closed the book.