Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Points and Lines

Points and Lines/Ten to sen was first published in Japan in 1958, Tsuneo Kobayashi adapted it for a film in the same year, and it was later filmed again as a tv series starring Kitano Takeshi. Many of Matsumoto's books have been adapted to film and television, another notable one being The Castle of Sand/Suna no utsuwa, directed by Yoshitaro Nomura with Tetsuro Tanba as Matsumoto's famous detective Imanishi, Castle of Sand appears in Imanishi Investigates translated by Beth Cary published by Soho Crime, Points and Lines is the book that produced a 'Matsumoto boom' after it's publication, it seems it's influence extended beyond the detective genre, as Dennis Washburn notes in his afterword to Tsutomu Mizukami's Temple of the Wild Geese that after reading Points and Lines Mizukami returned to writing after a ten year hiatus with the novel Fog and Shadow /Kiri to kage. Points and Lines opens with the discovery of what appears as a double love suicide, two lovers are found dead on a beach, the lovers, Otoki and Kenichi Sayama had taken Potassium Cyanide, at first it looks like an open shut case, but with the discovery of a dining ticket for one found in Kenichi's pocket,Torigai, a detective for the local police force begins to suspect that something doesn't quite add up. When the relatives of the deceased come to collect the bodies, a work colleague of Otoki, (who used to work as a waitress in a local restaurant), comes with her mother,she informs the police that she had seen Otoki leave with a man on a train, she had been at the station to see off one of her customers,who had insisted that she see him off at the train station.

It transpires that Kenichi Sayama had worked for a ministry that is under investigation for fraud, and Kiichi Mihara of the Metropolitan police force is sent to investigate the apparent suicides. Torigai passes on what he has learned about the case and Mihara agrees with Torigai that this may not be the simple case that was first presumed. Interviewing Tatsuo Yasuda the customer of Otoki's colleague who had seen Otoki and Kenichi leave on the train, the fact that maybe Yasuda had prearranged this meeting to use it as an alibi begins to form in Mihara's mind, Yasuda goes on to tell Mihara that he was away on business in Hokkaido during the time the suicides occurred. Thus unfolds the mystery Mihara has to begin to unwind, scrupulously studying train timetables, cross checking statements until, piece by piece, painstakingly he begins to dismantle Yasuda's alibi in a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Seicho Matsumoto began his prolific career when he was forty, he won many awards in Japan including the Akutagawa award in 1952 for his historical story Story of the Kokura Journal/Aru kokura nikki den. The short story The Face/Kao won the Japan Detective Story Writers Prize and can be found in the collection The Voice and other Stories. The translator James Kirkup wote in his obituary of him that he was a 'Japanese immortal'. Points and Lines was first published in English by Kodansha in 1970 translated by Mariko Yamamoto and Paul C.Blum, for more, read Dorothy Dodge Robbin's excellent piece on Matsumoto at Salem Press.

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