Friday, 24 January 2014

Forgotten Book - The Obituary Arrrives at Two O'Clock

Having enjoyed Shizuko Natsuki's The Third Lady a while back, I was tempted to sample her work again, and this led to my reading today's Forgotten Book - a title she produced back in 1983, and seems to have translated herself five years later as The Obituary Arrives at Two O'Clock. The title struck me as extremely intriguing, as I find stories focusing on obituaries rather fascinating, but I have to say that the title does not bear any relation to the book. Rather, the starting point is a ploy slightly reminsicent of the Wallace case, which I have discussed here several times recently.

Kosuke Okita is a youngish landscape gardener who is owed a lot of money by a rascally co-owner of a golf club. One night, he receives a mysterious telephone call from a woman in need of help, and this prompts him to go out on an abortive attempt to meet and help her. At about the same time, the man who has been cheating him is bludgeoned to death with a golf club. Kosuke has no alibi, and becomes the prime suspect.

After that opening, there is no similarity between the storyline and the Wallace case. Kosuke eventually goes on the run, and when he disappears, it seems that he has committed suicide. But is it possible he is still alive, and if so, what on earth is going on? Tension is maintained pretty well, and there's a rather grim explanation of the final mystery in the very last sentence of the book.

The excellent ingredients mean that there is much to enjoy in this book. The regular shifts in viewpoint mean you can never be quite sure where you are with events, and the effect is quite pleasing. Having said that, you have to suspend your disbelief on several occasions, and I felt that there were not enough suspects, and a bit too much time was devoted to discussing the intricacies of the Japanese golf club business. Not a masterpiece, but a good book, and further evidence of Natsuki's storytelling ability, as well as another reminder of the dangers associated with believing everything people tell you on the telephone.


nigel.holmes said...

According to the Japan Foundation Website (, the translator is Robert B. Rohmer. The two NATSUKI Shizuko books that I've read both feature some exploration of a particular business (e.g. the construction of the concrete shapes piled up to protect Japanese coasts).

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Nigel, that's interesting.

J F Norris said...

I have all the English tranlssted books that were published by Bantam back in the 1980s and I've wanted to get to all of them. Murder on Mt Fuji is her first and is a very traditional Japanese mystery. The others -- judging from the blurbs -- look to be sort of Ruth Rendell style novels. I thought THE THIRD LADY was very impressive. It'll be hard to top that performance.

Unknown said...

Wow! Sounds like an intense book. I am always up for a great thriller! I just finished reading, "Chasing A Miracle" by Eliot Hartford Bailey- book one in a trilogy (one that I think would make a great movie one day) and have been looking for a new read. This one looks perfect! Thank you so much for recommending it!

Martin Edwards said...

John, yes, I think this one is not quite as good. But a decent read.