In The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Keigo Higashino is featured with that asinine title, asking if he’s the next Stieg Larsson. Pardon me, but I loathe that label that’s slapped on any mystery writer outside of the US such is the case of Mr. Higashino who hails from Tokyo. Reading up on this author, his first translated work in the US is The Devotion to Suspect X. This title sounds quite intriguing. Check out the plot summary and also there’s an excerpt (same link above):
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.
When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.
I’d never heard of him until now and he’s Japan’s bestselling mystery writer at the moment. His books have led to film adaptations and his writing has been recognized for awards. When the media or the publisher asks if this is the next Stieg Larsson? To me they are largely basing it on the sales of the author and not the writing. To me, stating that another author is “just like Stieg Larsson” is not a selling point to me. I’m disgusted by the media types and publishers who bandy around the Stieg Larsson name when doing write ups of new authors. Yes, the Larsson name grabs attention but it doesn’t always close the sale.
Rant-time. I strongly dislike the Stieg Larsson label or comparison because it raises expectations that maybe some of these authors cannot meet. I think this practice does a disservice to the author and to the readers who go in with unreasonably high expectations (or low expectations depending on your POV). Writers should be judged on their own merit(s) and talents and not unjustly compared to the writings of a publishing phenomenon of the likes we won’t see again for quite sometime so, please, with sugar on top: STOP labeling mystery writers outside of the US as the next Stieg Larsson! Based on the excerpt, I did buy this book and look forward to reading it.