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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Soul Cage

Honda Tetsuya

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To purchase Soul Cage

Title: Soul Cage
Author: Honda Tetsuya
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 299 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Soul Cage - US
Soul Cage - UK
Soul Cage - Canada
Stahlblaue Nacht - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: ソウルケイジ
  • Translated by Giles Murray
  • The second in the series featuring Reiko Himekawa

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent bits, but ultimately an awkward fit

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 2/9/2017 Mark Sschreiber
Publishers Weekly . 22/5/2017 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Readers are likely to find Soul Cage more satisfying than The Silent Dead (.....) Happily, none of the above flaws tarnish the work under review, which metamorphoses from a whodunit to a "how’dhedoit" -- and that takes some doing." - Mark Sschreiber, The Japan Times

  • "(T)he ultimate answer to this clever blend of procedural and whodunit doesn’t disappoint." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Soul Cage is the second in the series featuring young Tokyo homicide squad leader Reiko Himekawa. She's still only twenty-nine here, and the squad is still mourning the loss of one of their own from the previous investigation, recounted in The Silent Dead. A new investigation soon offers considerable distraction however, when a severed hand is found in the back of a van. Fingerprints identify the hand as having belonged to a Kenichi Takaoka, and the amount of blood found in the garage he rented suggest there's no way he could have survived. But the rest of him is missing, and the police understandably find it odd that an apparent murderer would dispose of an entire body save a single hand.....
       The novel actually begins with a prologue chapter, from years earlier, where several first-person narrators describe the events surrounding a construction worker's death. It is a suicide made to look like an accident; the man has large debts and has been pressured into killing himself for the life insurance payout that will benefit those he owes the money to. One of those describing what happened is a co-worker of the suicide, Kenichi Takaoka; the other is the suicide's then still very young son, Kosuke Mishima.
       Most of the story then follows the present-day police investigation, but the narration briefly switches back to the first person repeatedly, to give the personal perspectives of some of those involved.
       Kosuke was put in an orphanage, but over the years Takaoka kept an eye on him and took him under his wing. Eventually, he hired Kosuke to apprentice in the small construction business he set up, and the two have been co-workers ever since.
       The old suicide comes to bear on the present case as well when the police find out that the young woman who is apparently Kosuke's girlfriend recently lost her father -- in a construction accident strikingly similar to Kosuke's father's.
       The basics behind these forced suicides -- taking advantage of the despair those with the crushing debts feel, as well as Japanese law and sense of obligation regarding family debts -- has some good potential, and Honda's set-up here -- complete with Yakuza-connections, lazy police, and the horrible villain handling these matters -- is decent. It's also not nearly enough for Honda, as identity issues complicate the case: it's too late to ask him personally, but the Takaoka that Kosuke knew clearly wasn't the Takaoka those who knew him as a child and in school knew. It's not a bad twist, and clarifies some of the open questions -- but Honda complicates matters further, in scientifically rather dubious ways, and ultimately the whole brew of motives and secrets (and over-the-top bad guy) gets too messy.
       On the whole, the police procedural aspect of the novel is done better -- though it too is crude. But that's part of the fun: rather than a well-oiled machine the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is an institution where hierarchy counts and competence can seem like an after-thought; personal rivalries and conflicts are very much out in the open. Reiko gets teamed up with her least-favorite colleague, Ioka, who is constantly hitting on her, making for uncomfortable banter between them throughout Meanwhile, there's colleague Kikuta, who has a crush on Reiko but can't work up the nerve to admit it to her -- which annoys her, even though, although she is interested, she isn't ready to go out with him anyway ("She needed to feel a little more secure in her identity as a detective on the force before she could take the next step"). So that slow-motion relationship is left to develop in future installments of the series .....
       Without sufficient follow-through regarding so many aspects of the novel -- in particular, the present-day victims of the crimes, Kosuke and the young woman whose father was also a forced suicide --, Soul Cage feels a bit thin. A (near-)final twist does certainly offer shock-effect and some graphic description, but Honda invests too much into that one turn; more attention to so many other parts of the story would have helped much more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 August 2017

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Soul Cage: Reviews: Honda Tetsuya: Other books by Honda Tetsuya under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Honda Tetsuya (誉田哲也) was born in 1969.

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© 2017 the complete review

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