Introducing Umiko Wada
A key element in the plot of my latest novel, The Fine Art of Invisible Detection, is the impact on individuals over time of forces beyond their control.
The nerve gas sarin was developed by the Germans towards the end of the Second World War and was then produced for possible military use by all sides in the Cold War. Large quantities were manufactured at Nancekuke, high on the Cornish coast, prior to the plant’s closure in 1980, with grievous consequences for the health of many who worked there.
Such science travels far and fast. Sarin was the poison of choice for the Aum Shinrikyo cult in its murderous attack on the Tokyo Metro in 1995. Among those killed, in my novel, was Umiko Wada’s husband, though it took him another twelve years in a coma actually to die. This novel is partly the story of what Umiko Wada then became.
It could be said that Wada retreated from the world. She never married again. Her future, which might have been a highly conventional one of a Japanese wife and mother, was completely altered. Yet, looking back from the perspective of middle age, Wada no longer regrets that alteration, much as she also wishes her husband hadn’t died. She has learned to appreciate the private consolations of routine, orderliness and precision, leavened with her own understated brand of humour.
She worked for many years as an English translator and has become fluent in the language. Hired partly because of this, she now works as secretary for a private detective who specialises in commercial cases. But she is much more than a secretary to him. Rather she is an integral part of how he does business, analysing problems for him, supplying everything he requires to do his job. He values her highly, though he is unlikely to tell her so. And that, oddly, is one of the things she likes about him.
Wada doesn’t crave attention or riches or very much at all, in fact. She only wants to be allowed to live life on her own terms – to be herself. Above all, she desires no upheaval in her existence, which satisfies her by its very predictability. That is how she has survived. And that is how, ultimately, she has thrived.
But all that is about to change. Her boss’s latest case is going to change her world for ever – and throw Wada into hazardous situations for which she isn’t prepared and from which she should logically stand little chance of emerging unscathed.
But Wada is resourceful and stubborn and quietly defiant in the face of danger. She isn’t going to succumb without a fight.
For those who would like to find out whether she does or not and to enter in the process the interior world of Umiko Wada, The Fine Art of Invisible Detection awaits.