Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Seicho Matsumoto, Pro Bono (1961)

My first Seicho Matsumoto novel was Points and Lines (1958), the whodunit that made him famously popular in Japan. That mystery hinged on a detailed analysis of train timetables, a subject that Japanese readers love but that many American readers find tedious. Perhaps more to American taste—and certainly more to the taste of noir fans—will be Matsumoto’s Pro Bono (1961), which has just appeared in English for the first time. Kiriko Yanagida, a young woman from Kyushu, travels to Tokyo to solicit to the services of a famous lawyer to represent her brother, whom she believes has been falsely accused of murder. Kiriko has no way to pay the lawyer, and he briefly considers but rejects the possibility of taking her case pro bono. The bulk of the novel tells of the events that follow: the fate of Kiriko’s brother; how his fate affects her; and how all of this comes back to affect the lawyer. Grade: B+

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