Seventeen: Hideo Yokoyama

Hideo Yokoyama
Louise Heal Kawai (Translator)

To follow up my review of 6/4 last week I return with the newly released English follow up for the rising star of journalistic focused drama. As opposed to 6/4 which might be described (as above) as a police procedural, this is a headlong dive into the world of small town newspapers.

To set the scene, we have Yuuki, our main character and a news man who has made it nearly 40 and still been able to dodge the bullet of responsibility, until today.

A plane has crashed into the mountains of Gunma, Yuuki's beat,  (True story, placing us in 1985 Japan) and wouldn't you know it, Yuuki has been placed in charge. Can he organize reporters acting like mountain climbers, the midnight deadline, no proper line of communication with the top, and above that, the feelings of his readers, the victims families and the ad men downstairs who just want to sell more.

This book isn't exactly a mystery in any sense, but possibly a thriller in some ways, as it works to keep the vice tight and the clock is always almost set to run out. In some ways in comparison to the earlier book, it's a challenge to see if a printing deadline can be as interesting as a kidnappers ransom drop.

Answer, probably not. However, if you don't know very much about the original incident the information provided here might hold your attention nearly as much as 6/4's chase scenes.

For me, having read and listened to huge amounts of information about the JAL Flight 123 crash, the information wasn't new, but the perspective kept this book interesting enough to suck me in and keep me turning pages.

The strongest points of the story are the struggles of the newspaper and the journalists to find a proper place in the midst of this tragedy. Most of all the reaction of the young journalists who did manage to make it to the top of that blood soaked mountain rang true and important to me.

However, surprisingly, the family aspect of this book (the strongest part of 6/4) felt a bit tagged on and sitcomy, in the sense that it had to resolve itself by page 416 and Yokoyama was far less risky in his tying things together this time.

Overall, recommended, but not as a mystery, but a drama and entertaining education of the largest and most tragic plane crash in Japan's history.