Prayer in the Ruins

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Prayer in the Ruins
Author: Joh Sasaki
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163283302
318 pages
13.6 x 19.0 cm / 5.5 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2010
Awards: Naoki Prize, 2009
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Takashi Sendo, a police detective on leave for a depressive emotional disorder, is the protagonist of this set of linked stories about six incidents in small-town Hokkaido. Although still recuperating and without any official authority, Sendo digs into the cases?sometimes to help someone who helped him out before, other times to follow up on past crimes he failed to solve. In the title story, a former colleague contacts Sendo after a sex worker is killed in a case paralleling a prostitute's murder by a man named Furukawa, whom Sendo had arrested in Sapporo 13 years earlier. Reared in poverty without knowing his father, Furukawa had been abandoned by his mother and had lost his sister to illness; prior to the Sapporo incident he had done time in a juvenile reformatory for killing yet another prostitute when he was 17. His sentence for the Sapporo offense was reduced to 12 years in consideration of his unfortunate upbringing, meaning that he could very well be out of prison by now. In the climax Furukawa calls Sendo out to a dam by his own childhood home?once a bustling coal-mining outpost, now all but a ghost town?and throws himself to his death.

The final tale of the series, Fukki no asa (The Morning of Return), probes the secret behind a three-year-old case in which Sendo's failure to catch a kidnapper caused the female victim to be beheaded and the suspect to commit suicide, all in the space of two hours. The collection stands out for its gimlet-eyed portrayal of a flawed detective whose vulnerability echoes that of the hero in Hitchcock's Vertigo.