By Riku Onda
Setting & details: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Authenticity of Japanese characters & dialogue: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Translation quality: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Entertainment value: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My recommendation: A masterful “unreliable narrator” mystery in which both characters believe the other to be the killer, alternating their impressions of events in a way that points the finger of guilt first one way, then the other, right up to the satisfying conclusion.
The author of The Aosawa Murders gives the psychologial thriller a brilliantly executed twist in her newest bestseller—both narrators are equally unreliable, but which one is the killer?
As their own relationship falls apart, Aki and Hiro each suspect the other of murdering the guide who died on their trekking expedition. As the story unwinds from their alternating points of view, each new revelation suggests they’re both guilty of plenty, and they each make a compelling case that the other could be the murderer.
As she did so skillfully in The Aosawa Murders, Onda lets her characters reveal their insights about the killing through dialogue and inner thoughts rather than descriptive narration. It’s a challenging way to deliver a story, but Onda does it beautifully. She replaces the kind of descriptive scene-setting that gives a visual reference to the tale with one that reveals the inner landscape and motives of the players. It’s a view of the Japanese way of thinking that delivers seldom-seen insights into the society and culture.
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How I pick the book giveaway winners: On the last day of each month, I load all the email addresses of Japanagram subscribers into a random name picker on the Web and ask it to choose subscribers to match however many books I’m giving away that month. Then I publish the emails in the next day’s Japanagram (all emails obscured in a way so only the subscriber will be able to recognize it as their own, of course!)