The Investigation – Jung-Myung Lee – Review




“At once a captivating mystery and an epic lament for 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.

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.”

5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Yuichi Watanabe is a young Japanese prison guard, drafted in to guard Korean prisoners in Fukuoka Prison during WWII. He is ordered to investigate the murder of another prison guard, Sugiyama, a cruel man, feared throughout the prison. As Watanabe begins to investigate he comes into contact with thugs, wily prisoners and a young, gentle poet. He also begins to find out that Sugiyama and the prisoners are not all that they would first appear to be.

This is a beautifully written piece of literature. There is beauty, and sometimes sadness, to be found on each page and whilst the topic and the outcome were not always beautiful it was a pleasure to read. Jung-Myung Lee provides such an evocative image of the prison and it’s inhabitants it’s easy to imagine being there. The claustrophobia and melancholy are almost palpable and the reader is transported back in time to 1940’s wartime Japan. The slow revelation of Sugiyama’s relationship with the prisoners, particularly Yun Dong-Ju, a young poet is a joy to follow.

At the heart of The Investigation is the message that a prison doesn’t just have to be a physical thing. Yun Dong-Ju is imprisoned in Fukuoka but sets himself free metaphorically with his poetry and literature. Sugiyama discovers that he has been in his own prison of violence and fear and his discovery of poetry helps to change his outlook on life and set him free. It’s about how music, poetry or prose can open endless possibilities, cause heartbreak, cause our hearts to swell and ultimately show us all a glimpse of true freedom, even if it is just fleetingly.

This is a fictional work based on the real life of Yun Dong-Ju, a Korean poet. I hope to be able to read more about him and discover his poetry in the future.

This was a book I wanted to savour but was so compelling it was at times difficult to put to one side. A fantastic read from start to finish.



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