SPOILER WARNING!!! Please don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gripping. When I need books for All Hallows Read, please remind me to look at Japanese authors first–they actually write things that scare me, much more than their famed Western counterparts.
A few things I’ve noticed:
The importance of youth and looks. Japan is portrayed as a very appearance focused society, under all that politeness. Of course, a lot of societies favor the beautiful, but here it’s just–characters have a world weariness about them for not looking or being beautiful, for not getting dealt a great hand in the genetic lottery. It’s a gritty kind of bitterness. I don’t know why I’m including that in my review really, it’s just–I’ve never read something so focused not on the other side of an appearance obsessed society but on the gritty result of an appearance favoring society.
Kirino loves making metaphors and connecting it with current situations and shoving it in the readers faces. It’s a good literary technique–just that less is more, and doing this for every shift in point of view (of which there were plenty), was grating. We get it, when a character does laundry it symbolizes that her life is a “pointless spin cycle”. That even sleeping arrangements mean something, about relationships and the way characters have been living for years as a couple and the state of their dried up love. If a cigarette burns someone’s fingers, it means whatever is happening in that scene is likely to metaphorically burn the character later. It’s great, really, but the fact that the author feels the need to point out these symbolisms every single time was annoying. The only time it was used brilliantly was at the end, where “Yoshie, who controlled the speed of the line, had found a way out.” and it was great, because now the reader would want to look at the characters positions in their jobs and see how it all ended up for them in the end, if they haven’t already figured it out.
I don’t know if it’s a Japanese thing to have hyped up instincts / sixth sense / gut feeling or if it was poorly concealed deus ex machina, but everybody and their mother had an instinctual ‘bad’ feeling upon encountering Satake, even Yoshie, who only came across him for less than two seconds. I get that the author was doing it to convey suspense etc for the reader, but the author has been doing a good job thus far just describing and telling stories and it was definitely a downturn when the characters all just suddenly knew Satake was evil/a killer/bad within .005 seconds of meeting him.
One thing that bothered me in regards to consistency: How the findings of the private detective Stake hired, while correct, doesn’t actually corroborate with the story Masako told the police in regards to her whereabouts the day of the dismemberment. She’s got neighbors that placed her friends with her in her house, as well as people who saw them with the body. The police also presumably poked around her neighborhood and interviewed her neighbors yet the police didn’t notice this.
I had problems with the ending; firstly because of the way the author felt like she needed to write the rape scene out twice and how Masako suddenly turned psychic, that she while she could not read what exactly motivated her rapist, she knew that he “was living in a dream” and started sympathizing with him. Also, the whole book was about covering up a crime but it ends in a crime as well and leaves loose ends (such as: if the police do their job they’d have caught Masako as she’s been lingering in Japan two days after the rape and murder; the rapist that was rumored to hang around near the factory was never caught or heard from again after Kazuo denied it was him when it was his turn for a POV narrative).
Yoshie surprised me the most at the end, I think. Come to think of it, she was the one in the beginning, the ‘Ah, she’ll lose it in the end’ but as you went on, that kind of took a back seat. And at the end, well.
This was a really engaging read. The characters were either relateable or annoying, both of which are good because they’re characters that are real enough to get off the page and get under your skin. I haven’t been annoyed at a book character yet wanted to keep reading since I was twelve and I was reading about Professor Lockhart, but Kuniko awoke those feelings again. This book is definitely one of the better ones I’ve read this year. The Goodreads rating system, being what it is, reflects personal preferences but if I were to look at this objectively, I’d give it a 4/5 rating. But since the ratings are subjective, I considered my triggers and squicks for the rating.