The Silent Dead is a crime fiction book set in Tokyo city that follows main character Reiko Himekawa, a female detective who’s struggling to prove herself within her field, surrounded by male peers that seem to delight in making her feel uncomfortable and lesser than them. She is also a rape victim and this book doesn’t just focus on the crime that she’s investigating but also the role in which PTSD has taken in both her professional and personal life.
The book paints a frankly terrifying picture of Tokyo life in this regard too. For example, her work colleagues have a multitude of sexual responses to her; constantly doing things like writing her off because she’s a woman, mocking her fear of ‘hot summer nights’ (because that’s how the weather was when she was raped), making advances on her because they were in a dark place (a crime scene) and groping her. Reiko indicates even more of this kind of behaviour on public transport and just by existing within city life. It’s a nonstop experience of harassment that made the book feel quite claustrophobic and set a really uncomfortable tone within the pages.
The plot, however, is compelling, and there are some great twists and turns that are wonderfully built up. When a body appears on the surface of a pond in the park, Reiko and her team are in charge. The body is wrapped up so well it appears that this was not a body that was supposed to be found. It seems like a unique murder case until Reiko remembers another case not so long ago.
The Silent Dead has a very different feel and pace to American crime fiction, although the dialogue can drag and feel quite clunky at times, but this could be down to the translation rather than the writing itself. Like all the best crime thrillers, the plot goes deeper into the psychological side of these kind of crimes and the examination of the dark web and the way anyone can be drawn into, and excited by, murder and death, especially as a body count grows.
If you enjoy police procedural books this is a great read. It’s a refreshing new voice and a different type of location that makes it stand out from current bestsellers of the genre. It is however pretty gruesome and the frequent references to sexual violence could prove difficult for a lot of people. Overall though I enjoyed this book and would definitely read another in this series.