Point Zero
March 21, 2024

Book Review

Point Zero

reviewed by Dr. Sneha Pathak


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Seicho Matsumoto is considered one of the greatest Japanese writers of the crime genre. His latest book available in English, Point Zero, is an example of his trademark writing style where he mingles crime with psychology and the lives of ordinary people.

Besides these two, Point Zero is also heavily influenced by the time it was set in – the 1950s.

Point Zero is the story of Teiko who has recently entered into an arranged marriage with Kenichi Uhara. She doesn’t know much about him before they get married, but hopes to settle down to a nice, quiet life in Tokyo after her husband gets transferred there. She isn’t sure of her husband in their four-day long honeymoon and suspects that he has been with women before but hopes to know him better.

Soon after the honeymoon, however, Uhara has to leave for Kanazawa where he had been posted till now to wrap-up his work before he can shift to Tokyo. But he never returns and Teiko visits Kanazawa to locate her husband’s whereabouts. Nothing comes to light and Teiko is unsure of what to do next when Uhara’s brother reaches Kanazawa to help Teiko, only to be murdered. His tragic death opens the possibility that Uhara might be dead too and as Teiko digs deeper into her husband’s past, she realises that the reason of these killings lies in the past when some Japanese women used to work as “pan-pan girls” or pleasure women for the American GIs after the war.

Quite unlike its contemporary counterparts, the novel doesn’t move at a break-neck speed. Neither do we get the in-vogue short chapters and multiple POVs. The story is told at a steady but gentle pace, almost throughout from the perspective of Teiko as she travels further and further in the past to discover what led to her husband’s disappearance. The book is also heavily tied-up with social mores of the then Japanese society and the idea of respectability when it comes to women.

Point Zero moves from Tokyo to Kanazawa and further inward and Matsumoto gives his readers descriptions of the desolate yet beautiful areas that don’t often come into the notice of a reader who is not from the country. Teiko emerges as a strong character. She is a woman who takes things in her own hands and does the best she can to unravel the mystery of a man she has known for a very short time. Even though the book is set in a specific time period, it maintains its charm for the reader. I am looking forward to reading more from Matsumoto.

Point Zero is available at:

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