It grabbed my attention from the first page and I could have easily finished the whole book in one sitting. Finally I breathed a sigh of relief at the very end of the book, noticing I was almost holding my breath for the whole time. And it wasn’t a happy ending or even a simple “justice conquering evil” outcome, it leaves me thinking, who really is the bad guy and what caused all these tragedies ultimately?
Journey Under the Midnight Sun is written by Keigo Higashino/東野圭吾, who is well-known for detective fiction. In terms of its genre this book divides opinion. Many people argue it’s more a drama, a love story rather than a detective story. But whatever the genre, this is recognised as one of the best by Keigo Higashino. It was published in 1999 in Japan. Now it’s one of the bestsellers worldwide and it has several stage drama and TV adaptations in many countries.
The feature image I chose for this post is a poster for one of the TV adaptions I believe. It’s quite different to the style I usually like. But this image conveys my feeling for this story best. It’s midnight, but not a peaceful night. It’s moonless, dark, probably raining but still stifling. The shocking red colour feels dangerous and desperate. The lone lamp post looks so helpless and lonely.
Firstly, the time span. From cover to cover, it is a story of nearly 20 years. A huge number of characters are introduced. I had to write them down on sticky notes to remind myself. The characters appear, disappear, and reappear, playing different roles throughout the 20 years. Most of them have a sad ending or are hurt in some way because of the main characters’ plotting.
Secondly, the storytelling. The author has a magic way of conducting the orchestra of information and characters. When he doesn’t want you to guess it right, no matter how obvious the evidence is, you just didn’t think of the possibility. When he guides you to the direction of truth, everything becomes clear and all pieces fall into place.
Thirdly, the background. The story is set in a real place in a section of real history. It mentions developing films in a dark room, the first appearance of personal computers, programming, the first generation of computer games, like Super Mario, the appearance bank cards, bank frauds caused by incomplete bank security and computer systems, the Bubble Economy in Japan in 1980s, etc. The story started in 1973 and ended in 1992. In reality, it’s from the teenage year to the 30s of the author’s life. I wonder if he played with cameras, tried computer programmes, was a victim of bank fraud and was affected by the collapse of the economy? While I was absorbed by the main plot lines, I couldn’t help thinking this was a real story, that it really happened. There were people like the characters in the book who did exactly the same thing at those times. It made the story feel very vivid.
I guess the wonderful thing about this book is that it’s not only about piecing together information and deducing the evidence, it shows the dark side of humanity. It scares me but also makes me realise how blessed I am. If the world really follows the theory of “survival of the fittest”, the main characters of the book definitely would be the winners. They walk on by stepping over dead bodies and the air they breathe out is deceitful. Imagining a world full of people like them, it really is hell. Fortunately, the world is not like that. People do things out of love and goodness because we are made in the image of great good God, who can’t help loving us.