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‘The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping’: Crime novel lacks a detective or PI but entertains nonetheless

by

Special To The Japan Times

Bachelor executive Shinsuke Sakuma is an egotistic narcissist with a callous attitude toward females, preferring one-night stands to serious relationships.

The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping, by Keigo Higashino, Translated by Jan Mitsuko Cash.
240 pages
VERTICAL, Nonfiction.

At his PR company, Cyberplan, he thrives on the high pressure. But when his project for Nissei Motors is shot down — for reasons that appear due to bad personal chemistry with Katsutoshi Katsuragi, the chairman’s son — Sakuma feels an urge to get even, somehow. That opportunity knocks, unexpectedly, when by chance Sakuma encounters Juri, Katsuragi’s adult daughter out of wedlock. Juri hates her old man and her half sister, and wants to scam him out of some money so she can leave Japan and go her own way.

Juri enlists Sakuma to stage a phony kidnapping, offering him a share of the ransom. Ever the meticulous planner, Sakuma sees it as a challenge and conspires to commit the perfect crime. While some tense moments occur, the two pull it off and collect the ransom. But Sakuma begins to realize something’s not right, and the would-be criminal becomes the investigator, trying to assemble the missing pieces to the puzzle. When he finally does, he realizes he’s not nearly as shrewd as he thought he was.

“The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping” is well constructed and tightly edited, fleshed out with interesting characters with believable motives. Amazingly for a crime novel, it features neither police officers nor PIs; from beginning to end, it’s a battle of amateurs. The plot may be a bit contrived, perhaps, but it’s still highly entertaining.