The Investigation by J.M. Lee, translated by Chi-Young Kim [in Library Journal]
Watanabe Yuichi sits behind bars in Japan’s infamous Fukuoka Prison. After World War II, the former “soldier-guard” is now an incarcerated “low-level war criminal” under U.S. control. His written confession, which highlights two people — “one prisoner and one guard; one poet and one censor” — becomes a chronicle of “war’s destruction of the human race.”
Still a teenager, Watanabe was assigned to investigate the gruesome murder of a fellow prison guard whose treatment of Korean prisoners was particularly vicious. One inmate claims responsibility; amid the horrifying injustice, another will harness the power of words that leads Watanabe to the shocking truth.
Verdict: Inspired by the too-brief life of Korean poet-hero Yun Dong-Ju, whose surviving verses are hauntingly interspersed throughout, this work is a magnificent testimony to the profound efficacy of literature and the liberating, life-saving act of reading. If Lee’s stateside debut is any indication of the quality of his other titles, English-language audiences should demand accessibility to more, hopefully made available under the auspices of accomplished translator Kim. For literary fiction groupies, thriller seekers, history aficionados, war voyeurs, all, this exquisite, electrifying discovery awaits.
Published: 2015 (United States)