On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.
Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. This is her first crime novel and the first time she is translated into English.
This took me a while to get into as the first person, half of a conversation, style it’s written in for the most part, felt quite jarring and I needed to adapt to the rhythm of it.
I still can’t quite work out whether Hisako was behind the murders of her family or not – it’s left slightly ambiguous.
I can see the influences of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in the style and delivery of the various statements made by people involved with, and affected by, the murders.
This is a very clever book, toying with the reader, leading you off on various little detours into the lives of the different narrators. But always circling back round to the horrific events of that summer day.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.