Japanese author Onda makes her English-language debut with an enigmatic and haunting crime novel. In 1973, 17 people die at the Aosawa villa on the Sea of Japan in the city of K—, including members of three generations of the Aosawa family, after drinking spirits and soft drinks that were delivered to the house as a gift. The massive police inquiry settles on the delivery man as the culprit. He later hangs himself and leaves behind a note confessing to the mass poisoning, which he carried out after he got a “notice that he had to kill the Aosawa family.” In 2003, Makiko Saiga, who was a neighbor of the Aosawas and the author of a book about the murders, talks to an unidentified interviewer. That’s followed by testimony from other people with a link to the case, including the police detective obsessed with it. Onda’s unusual narrative technique, which presents differing perspectives by giving only the responses to the interviewer’s questions, enhances the nesting-doll plot. American readers will appreciate why this puzzle mystery won the annual Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Fiction. (Feb.)
Selected by NYT as one of most notable books of 2020.
PW STARRED REVIEW: '
An enigmatic and haunting crime novel. Onda’s unusual narrative technique, which presents differing perspectives by giving only the responses to the interviewer’s questions, enhances the nesting-doll plot. American readers will appreciate why this puzzle mystery won the annual Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Fiction.'
TIMES (London): '
The hot and humid atmosphere of the coastal town almost becomes a character in itself. The fascinating result is rich and strange, utterly absorbing.
Onda makes you aware of “another, different world below the surface of this one.'
KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW: '
The domino effect of the murder on the community and the nation, as well as the swirl of uncertainty concerning the way its narratives are shaped,
gives the book a striking resonance. This dark and dazzling novel defies easy categorization but consistently tantalizes and surprises.'
Mrs Peabody Investigates: '
The minute I saw this ravishing book cover, I wanted a copy. And – oh happy day – it’s turned out to be one of my most satisfying crime reads of the year.'
ForeWord Reviews: '
Intoxicating details and shiver-inducing propositions hold the full story at a careful distance; when the truth emerges, it’s both partial and staggering. The Aosawa Murders is an intricate and devastating search for the facts behind a complicated crime.'
NY Journal of Books: '
The genius of this novel is that it cultivates a nonstop air of menace.
Practically every character comes off like a potential murderer.'
The Aosawa family is hosting a birthday party at the prominent hospital they own, located in a villa on the Sea of Japan, when tragedy strikes. After everyone gathers to make a celebratory toast, it is clear that they have all been poisoned. Seventeen people, guests and family members, die. The only one who is spared is the family's blind daughter, Hisako. A scrap of cryptic verse is also left on the scene. As the investigation unfolds, the lead suspect dies by suicide, sealing his guilt, but also ensuring that his motive is never discovered. The mystery is told through a series of interviews: there's an author who wrote about the Aosawa murders, the police inspector, and other people connected with the family and the party. In her first work translated into English, Mystery Writers of Japan Award winner Onda gives mystery readers a modern-day Rashomon story using the voices of witnesses and suspects in a finely crafted and intricate novel. VERDICT A chilling and skillfully crafted mystery about the spellbinding spaces between evidence, facts, intuition, and the will of a killer.—Ron Samul, New London, CT
A bizarre murder in 1970s Japan continues to reverberate through the decades. This book, originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, is the first by Onda to be translated into English.
After opening with a short, unusually lyrical excerpt from the transcript of a police interview, the book unfolds through chapters told from strikingly different perspectives. The first narrator is Makiko Saiga, who wrote a book about the crime in question, the poisoning of 17 people at a birthday party at the Aosawa family estate. Looking back on the murders 30 years later, Saiga, who was a child at the time, remembers it was a humid summer in a beautiful setting by the sea. Then, several months after the crime, a man who didn't seem to have any connection to the Aosawas wrote up a confession and then hanged himself. Though skeptical, the police took the opportunity to close the case. Saiga went on to research and publish The Forgotten Festival, her only book, about the crime. As she winds up her story, she implies that Hisako, the blind young Aosawa heiress and the only survivor of the massacre, might have been the killer. "You see, it's a very simple story. If there are ten people in a house and nine die, who is the culprit?" The next narrator is Saiga's assistant, who's highly suspicious of her boss's motives. An excerpt from The Forgotten Festival follows, a thinly veiled dramatization in which Saiga places her younger self at the scene of the crime and implicates a man she sees as the messenger of death. Subsequent sections focus on the housekeeper's daughter, the detective, Saiga's older brother, and others on the way to the surprising conclusion. The domino effect of the murder on the community and the nation, as well as the swirl of uncertainty concerning the way its narratives are shaped, gives the book a striking resonance.
This dark and dazzling novel defies easy categorization but consistently tantalizes and surprises.