Naoko, a major bestseller and film in Japan, is a poignant and wily take on gender relations from a master of the detective story. Expertly and seamlessly interweaving the real and the unreal, Naoko involves a regular guy whose world is rocked when his wife dies in a bus accident. His young daughter survives, but seems to be inhabited by her mother’s personality.
Keigo Higashino was born in the lowest of lowly ghettos in Osaka, to poor parents, in a tiny house that in his words was “always one room short.” He lived off hand-me-downs, and from girls at that. Always lonely, he took to reading massive amounts of fiction—anything he could get his hands on.
Higashino’s debut work, a collection of stories called After School, won the prestigious Edogawa Rampo Award for best horror/mystery, and Naoko has been turned into a blockbuster film (“Himitsu” or Secret in Japanese).
Higashino explains the premise of Naoko and the idea behind the main character:
“The basic premise of the story came to me while I was in the work world. I read in a book somewhere about people who die in accidents and about a young child who possesed the memories of someone who died nearby. This motivated me to write the story. The first thing I wondered about was sex in a situation where a lover’s soul resides in the body of a small girl. I mulled over it for some time, and tried it out as a short story, but the ideas didn’t fully materialize. Finally I presented it as a novel and it got picked up…
“Protagonists in mystery fiction have to be smart to figure things out, so they end up being heroic. However, this protagonist, Heisuke, is altogether lame. Writing him was a lot of fun.”