Jordan Taylor

Out of this World
A translator reviews untranslated Japanese science fiction and fantasy books

The Midnight Law Office

真夜中法律事務所 (Mayonaka Hо̄ritsu Jimusho)

2024-06-11T20:16:01Z

Summary

Detective Rui Indо̄ discovers one day he's capable of seeing dead people, though they seem incapable of speaking or moving. He has no idea what's going on until he bumps into a recently deceased idol and a man who can also see them and invites him to the Midnight Law Office. There Detective Indо̄ meets lawyer Akari Shinya who explains how these spirits remain in this world unable to move on because someone needs to be punished for their death but hasn't been. Together, she and Detective Indо̄ work together to help bring these criminals to justice and allow the dead to move on.

About the Author

Ritsuto Igarashi is an author and lawyer who began writing mystery novels in order to share his love for the law. His novel Court Game won the 62nd Mephisto Prize in 2020 which was later turned into a manga and a movie. He has also worked as a legal consultant for movies and TV shows. He only made his writing debut in 2020, but his works have ranked consistently high on a variety of best mystery book rankings since.

Review

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher, Kodansha. However, they did not ask me to write a review and, as always, all opinions in this blog are my own.

This is the second mystery book I've read with a tiny bit of fantasy in it (the first one was The Railway Crossing Ghost). This one feels a bit closer to “cozy crime” than the The Railway Crossing Ghost. There are cute little cat stamps in the scene breaks and the lawyer runs an independent coffee shop during the day. The cats confused me, but apparently it's because black cats can see the dead people, too (though you don't learn that until pretty late so…sorry for the spoiler. It's not important to the plot though). Obviously, there's only so much cozy you can get in a mystery novel though, there still are murders.

I admittedly am not that knowledgeable of Japanese legal terminology which meant I had to learn a bit for this one and I'm not surprised to learn the author is actually a lawyer because there are quite a lot of legal explanations. In some places this does make the story feel a bit slow as the characters go through theories of what happened and the legal implications, but it's a rather minor complaint.

I think the only other major complaint I have is that the characters don't feel massively deep or developed, but I'm not sure that's entirely necessary for this type of mystery book. I never felt like I really got to know Detective Indо̄ and the lawyer's primary character trait seems to be she's constantly sleep deprived. But like I said, I don't know if we need to have a massively deep look at the characters since the plot is primary about the mysteries of these people who haven't been able to move on as well as the exact rules of why they're stuck in this world and how they move on.

One other thing I enjoyed reading about this book is it looks at things like the rate of guilty verdicts given at trials and how this affects society and the legal system. As someone not massively familiar with the Japanese legal system, I was surprised at how the the rate for a guilty verdict is. It was over 99% in 2001, though has dropped slightly since to closer to 92% more recently. In comparison, England and Wales sees rates in the low 70s (though varies for the court). This book does touch on some reasons why this incredibly high conviction rate might not be good, so this book did well in terms of introducing its reader, me, to some interesting legal concepts.

One last thought I had while reading was that I think this could be a decent base material for a crime TV series. It just felt like it had potential for expansion into episodic stories. Though, perhaps the main characters would need to be fleshed out a bit more.

Potential Translation Problems

Honestly, there's not much. There's the legal terminology, but that's rather straightforward, you just have to learn it. Obviously a translator with a background of translating crime or mystery books with strong legal aspects would be able to do it more easily, but I think any skilled translator should be able to pick it up.

There is one sort of pun/reference in the title and name of the law office and the coffee shop that the lawyer Akari Shinya runs. Shinya means “deep at night”, while the title obviously means the same thing with a different word. The name of her law office is the Shinya Law Office, after her name, but again, it's a pun based on the fact that the dead can only move and speak in the middle of the night. It's not super important for the overall book, but could be a fun place for creativity.

Final Ratings

How many stars? 3.8
Would I want to translate it? I'd be happy to!

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