This was my second Akimitsu Takagi novel, after The Tattoo Murder Case, and I was equally impressed. This book is far less of a mystery, with the true identity of the culprit being easy to reason out, and much more of a psychological profile of a nation, showing a greater depth and intensity than his earlier work.
Based on a true story, “The Informer” delves into the world of the industrial spy, someone who uses connections and lies to weasel out secret information that would prove valuable if sold. This was a popular topic during the era, such as the 1958 film Giants & Toys and 1962’s Black Test Car. The Economic Miracle was just beginning, and businessmen were ruthless in their pursuit of competitive advantage, and willing to lie, cheat, steal and kill if it meant getting ahead.
In this novel we have Shigeo Segawa, a hapless fellow who got caught playing the stocks with company money and subsequently finds himself ruined. He is offered two lifelines, one from the hand of Mikio Sakai, a company owner who offers Segawa a Faustian bargain, but something he isn’t able to turn down, and one from the hand of Eiko Murozaki, and old lover whom Segawa had never forgotten but who reappears in his life suddenly. The spider-web of intrigues grown from there until Segawa is caught in a cleverly spun trap, and the game is afoot.
A novel without heroes, the story is told mostly from Segawa’s point of view as he is relentlessly hunted by the city’s chief prosecutor Kirishima, an almost amoral character who doesn’t seem to mind seeing more innocent bodies fall if it helps him untwist the web. Having a lawyer as the investigator was an interesting twist, and author Takagi had a keen insight into its mysteries, and in fact served as special advocated during a famous trial. The mystery aspect of the case is not too hard to unravel, but that doesn’t make the psychological interplay any less fascinating.
The tone of The Informer reminded me of No Country for Old Men, although the plots have nothing in common. One gets the sense that in the 1960’s world of Japanese business, there aren’t going to be any happy endings, and as long as someone is sitting in jail then justice is satisfied, regardless of whether the guilty party has been caught or not.