I've looked for a new book to start on after finishing Harry Potter. My criteria is that it be a Japanese long-form novel; no translation, nonfiction or short stories. I considered Yoshimoto Banana's "Kitchen" and Murakami Haruki's "Kafka on the Shore" but decided against them for now. It's late autumn, after all, with winter just days away. It's a time of falling leaves and wet streets. A time of cold wind and rain cutting you to the bone, of gloomy days and frosty nights. A time of hot drinks, warm blankets - and murder mysteries.
Miyabe Miyuki is a very popular current Japanese writer. Her works range from contemporary crime novels and historical mysteries to fantasy and science fiction. The book I've started on is called 理由 (riyuu), "Reason", and is a crime novel set in a Tokyo suburb in the late 1990's. I have only read the prologue and the first bit of chapter 1, about twenty pages in all, and I've only just come to the bit with the actual murder so I can't really say anything definite about it yet. It is decidedly more difficult than Harry Potter was, and the lack of furigana isn't helping. At this rate I'll have reading material for my morning commute well into spring.
So far, though, the setup and tone reminds me a lot of the Swedish authors Maj Sjövall and Per Wahlöö and their 1970's series of police novels (available in English). The book has a tone reminiscent of theirs (so far), and just like Sjövall and Wahlöö, Miyabe's book is as much about the setting as about the story itself. They use the plot as a guide to describe a changing city and a changing society and how these changes affect all the ordinary people caught up in them. In the case of Sjövall and Wahlöö it is Stockholm and Sweden during the cold war and economic depression of the 1970's; for Miyabe it's Tokyo and Japan in the post-bubble era of the 1990's.
"Riyuu" looks to be a very enjoyable read despite the difficult (for me) language. That it's been able to hook me already despite my lack of language skills is a testament to how well-written it is. My only regret so far is that it's only available in Japanese so I can't pass it on to other people that I know would love it as well.