The Detective (The Ruined Map)

Created by Kôbô Abe

Acclaimed Japanese novelist and playwright Kôbô Abe even cooked up a little private eye novel, The Ruined Map (1967). But it wasn’t some lit boy slumming–he pulled out all the stops and delivered, as one critic called it, “a mesmerizing literary crime novel that combines the narrative suspense of Chandler with the psychological depth of Dostoevsky.”

I call it a metaphysical stomp down the mean streets; part fever dream, some post-modern hokum and part hard-boiled headspinner that’s far more engaging and entertaining than it has any right to be.

An attractive woman who’s a bit of a lush hires a hard-boiled private detective to track down her husband, Nemuro Hiroshi, a well-repected Tokyo businessman, who went missing six months ago. The hapless gumshoe has only two leads: a photo and a matchbook, but that’s just the starting point as he pursues this seemingly unsolvable case. The detective is eventually given a tattered map to supposedly help him, but it’s not much help at all. Soon enough the increasingly frustrated detective’s tangling with mobsters, an angry brother-in-law, a vulnerable woman who may be a widow — and the slippery edges of reality and rationality itself, as the contradictory evidence and the lack of clues suggest that maybe, just maybe, not all mysteries can be solved.

Or should be.

It’s all enjoyably narrated by the hapless shamus, in suitably tough, taut prose, and the ending’s may well be worth the slog, even if it leaves you scratching your head for days.


  • “A disquieting and original work of art.”
    — The New York Times
  • “A compelling tour-de-force…. A horror story of such magnitude that it stuns the mind.”
    — The New York Times Book Review



    (aka “The Man Without a Map”)
    Based on The Ruined Map by Koko Abe
    Adapted by Koko Abe
    Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
    Starring Shintaro Katsu as THE DETECTIVE
    Also starring Etsuko Ichihara, Osamu Ôkawa, Kiyoshi Atsumi, Tamao Nakamura, Kinzô Shin, Shintarô Katsu


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.



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