Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace (355pp)
A cracking good novel by Peace, set in 1946 Tokyo. It’s part historical novel, part crime story, and strikingly original. The main character is a police inspector, Detective Inspector Minami (or at least that’s what he says his name is), is one of the Tokyo police force’s finest, but like the rest of the defeated Japanese, hungry, ill-paid, ill-housed, and flea-bitten. Minami is given the task, with his subordinates, of investigating the murder of a girl whose body has been found in a park. This means working from their office without a break for twenty days or until the case is closed. Minami finds that the case is linked to others, and to another case a year ago. Meanwhile the police force is being purged of unsuitable elements by the Public Safety Division, a branch of SCAP, i.e. the Victors.
Against a background of occupation, racketeering, prostitution, scavenging, and nasty rapes and murders, the police find a suspect. Serious violence breaks out between immigrant gangs and Japanese racketeers. Meanwhile Minami finds himself in trouble.
The novel, clearly well researched, vividly recreates the unpleasantness of survival in a defeated Japan, and explores the life and work of the immediate post-war police, which isn’t a common setting for fiction.