Longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
Fukuoka Prison, 1944. Beyond the prison walls the war rages; inside a man is found brutally murdered.
Yuichi Watanabe, a young guard with a passion for reading, is ordered to investigate. The victim, Sugiyama - also a guard - was feared and despised throughout the prison and inquiries have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanabe is unconvinced; and as he interrogates both the suspect and Yun Dong-ju, a talented Korean poet, he begins to realise that the fearsome guard was not all he appeared to be . . .
As Watanabe unravels Sugiyama's final months, he begins to discover what is really going on inside this dark and violent institution, which few inmates survive: a man who will stop at nothing to dig his way to freedom; a governor whose greed knows no limits; a little girl whose kite finds her an unlikely friend. And Yun Dong-ju - the poet whose works hold such beauty they can break the hardest of hearts.
As the war moves towards its devastating close and bombs rain down upon the prison, Watanabe realises that he must find a way to protect Yun Dong-ju, no matter what it takes. This decision will lead the young guard back to the investigation - where he will discover a devastating truth . . .
At once a captivating mystery and an epic lament for lost freedom and humanity in the darkest of times, The Investigation - inspired by a true story - is a sweeping, gripping tale perfect for fans of The Shadow of the Wind.
Jung-Myung Lee's extraordinary THE INVESTIGATION, translated by Chi-Young Kim, is set in a period of Korean history that isn't widely known in the West. In 1944, with the region still under Japanese rule, Korean inmates of Fukuoka prison are not allowed to use their own language. A young guard is ordered to find the killer of another guard and stumbles on a sinister conspiracy - and the work of a Korean poet who writes clandestine verses of rare beauty. Inspired by the work of Yun Dong-ju, the dissident Korean writer who died in Fukuoka in 1945, this is a heart-wrenching novel with many unexpected twists.
In Jung-Myung Lee's The Investigation, the equally merciless Japanese occupation of Korea drives a Second World War mystery set in Fukuoka prison. A forbidden passion for poetry binds the three protagonists: the jailed Korean bard Yun Dong-ju, whose life inspired the novel; the outwardly tough guard Sugiyama, and Yuichi, the bookish Japanese narrator. Lee's story celebrates the power of poetry, of books and of reading, to lend us a "sixth sense" that can heal and transform even in the harshest times. In this hellish jail, poetry both subverts and redeems, and "Only the purest language could testify about the most brutal era". Now, Britain's penal authorities become the "executioners of literature" as they ban the gift of books. So this Korean bestseller deserves to fly across our own prison walls.
Not just a whodunnit that provides the relief of a clear resolution. The book also tells the story of Japan's wartime history and is inspired by the real-life jailed Korean poet and dissident Yun Dong-ju, whose work is quoted throughout . . . a gripping book.