Author: Miyuki Miyabe
Translated by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi
Publisher: Kodansha International 
ISBN: 978-4-7700-3104-4

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On the cover of the book, we read that the New York Times Book Review says of the author:"Miyabe forte is suspense" while Kodansha, the publisher, boasts that she is "Japan's #1 Bestselling Mystery writer."  They both know what they talk about and Miyabe, indeed, deserves to some extent the commendations. She proves it in the Sleeping Dragon under review here, although part of the credit must be given to the translator, Deborah Iwabuchi. She did a splendid job of  conveying this work to the English readers in a fluent and pleasant language. I can well guess through the translation how pleasurable it would have been to be able to read it in the original.

The suspense is certainly suspenseful, although the reader cannot help but feeling a wee bit lost in the long, slow moving elaboration of the plot. The story line starts promptly with the presumed death of a child who would have been swept by the water amassed after a torrential storm into a manhole the cover of which must have been lifted by some passers-by probably for fun or more  tragically with criminal intent.  We are then introduced to the two principal characters of the book: Shogo Kosaka, a journalist working for a popular magazine and Shinji Inamura, a high school student, as they are witnessing the frantic search for the missing child. It was at this juncture that Kosaka learnt about the psychic power of his companion: Shinji can read  people's minds. That is how he was able to identify the two motorists who had caused the fatal misadventure.

But the suspense did not reside in that incident; it rather sprang from a tiny detail in Kosaka's past that Shinji discovered while reading Kosaka's mind as the two of them went after the two presumed culprits.  The discovery deflected their attention from the motorists and slowly the readers are introduced to a new set of circumstances where Kosaka appeared to be in mortal danger: unsettling blank letters,  haunting telephone calls, threatening messages scrawled on the staircase of his appartment complex,frightening behavior of a stalker-tailer. The most troublesome factor in all that mayhem though was that Osaka could not figure out the reason why he was placed in such quandaries nor who that could be that stood  behind let alone devised such unforgivable evil activities.  When the suspense was about to be unveiled, we learned that a kidnapping and nurder was about to take place in which Osaka was to be implicated.  Owing to his psychic gift, Shinji was privy to the formulation of the attempt and almost lost his life in order to prove Osaka's innocence; his friend, Naoya Oda, who was endowed with a higher degree of psychic vision,  did not have such luck.  His, that of the stalker-tailer and that of one of the two motorists, were the three cold bodies of this thriller.

Although the suspense maintains the reader's attention throughout the book, the plot nevertheless took to long too develop. There are some loose ends: I do not see the connection between the manhole cover episode and that of the murder-attempt. Nor could I justify the existence of Kanako, the secretary in Kosaka's office. In fact, her presence in the book is so tenuous that her name is not listed in the cast of characters! On the other hand, I can realize the importance of Nanae Imura, because who would read a suspense novel without a little bit of romance to spice it up?

What about The Sleeping Dragon of the title?  I am not sure, so the best thing would be to let the readers be the judges. I reproduce here the only reference I could find that mentions  the dragon. Kosaka talked about Naoya who lost his life in saving Kosaka's:

            Then I wondered if Naoya might be reborn [...] The next time, I prayed he'd find happiness not only in helping others but from letting others be of use to him.     

            Inside all of us, we have a dragon, a sleeping dragon with infinite power of an amazing form. Once that dragon wakes and rears its head, you can only pray for what might happen next:

            Please let me live a long and righteous life. Save me from disater.

            And please let the dragon protect me...

  's the only thing we can do. (p. 301.)

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