Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
A little girl is dead. Her mom knows who killed her. She wants revenge.
It sounds like a simple enough plot, what could be more straightforward and relatable than a broken-hearted mother wanting to punish those responsible for the death of her child? But this is not a simple story.
As the story starts, Moriguchi, a middle school teacher, is telling her students that she is retiring from teaching. Moriguchi has recently lost her 4-year-old daughter, Manami. She used to take her daughter to school sometimes when she had meetings because she didn’t have anyone to look after her. The girl used to wait for her in the nurse’s office but one day she went missing. After a frantic search, Manami turned up dead.
Moriguchi’s students know the story of Manami’s tragic accident, but they are shocked to learn that two of their classmates are responsible for her death. Referring to the culprits only as A and B, Moriguchi explains to the class exactly what happened and why she is not turning them in to the police.
And this is where things start getting even more messed up, as Moriguchi reveals her revenge. This is the first but by no means the last twist of this intriguing novel. Each subsequent chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, each of them with some connection to the crime. Each narrative adds one or more pieces to the puzzle, until we arrive at the final twist.
I have been reading thrillers/crime novels/mysteries since forever, and have read my fair share of Japanese crime fiction. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily darker or more twisted, but it goes all in when it comes to the darkest corners of the human heart and mind. This is a very entertaining novel and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime fiction. However, I am not crazy about the writing style, it doesn’t always flow naturally. That could be an issue with the English translation, of course. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to ruin the story for me.
Four stars, and I will be reading Minato’s second novel to be published in English, Penance, later this year.