PaperBackSwap Blog

Mystery Review – Go Gently, Gaijin

Go Gently, Gaijin by James Melville

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1986 mystery is the eighth of 13 novels starring Japanese police inspector Tetsuo Otani. His base is the city of Kobe, a port in Hyogo prefecture.

Otani’s team is investigating the hit-and-run killing of one Arab outside the mosque in Kobe and the suicide of another Arab at a hot-spring resort hotel. Otani, like Inspector Maigret, has loyal and capable subordinates. Officer Kimura uses his ability in English and intercultural skills to advantage though he is a ladies man. Officer Hara is the brainy one and Noguchi is the brawny one. Noguchi’s loyalty, strength, and silence call to mind the folklore hero Benkei. Hara and Noguchi, however, hit it off in the kind of unlikely friendship that English writers can pull off so well (e.g. Darcy and Bingley, Albus and Scorpius, Eeyore and Pooh).

The investigation takes Otani to well-known spots and attractions that will resonate with readers who have visited or lived in the Kansai region. Otani passes through Tor Road, home of shops selling wares from fashionable clothes to antiques and many kissaten (tearooms) and restaurants. The hot-spring is the real Arima hot-spring on the other side of Mount Rokko from Kobe city. Otani also takes in the all-female theatrical troupe at the Takarazuka Revue. A certain kind of reader will get a nostalgic feeling reading about these settings.

Although Melville was a fiction writer, his bursting sentences bring to mind academese. They are lengthened to the point of dismay by prepositional phrases and relative clauses. The mystery takes a back seat to setting and characters, which is not a bad thing when it comes to mysteries set outside of the US and UK. Melville is gently satirical and never snarky about Japanese people and their culture, which may or may not be a draw, depending on the depth of experience the reader has had with this delightful and exasperating people.



Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply