Book review – Penance

Before I get started with the book review, I wanted to sat thank you to readers, new and old.  I love writing this blog and it’s great that so many of you (almost 7,000 last month) are enjoying what I’m putting out there.  Now back to the review…

Regular readers will know that I enjoy the odd Japanese crime novel, some of which have been reviewed in these pages, including Malice and Salvation of a Saint.  Fancying another, I checked out a few blogs devoted to Japanese crime novels, eventually deciding to read Penance, a 2009 novel by Kanae Minato.  Minato has, apparently, been crowned the ‘queen of iyamisu’, ‘iyamisu’ being an ‘eww’ mystery (where the reader goes ‘eww’ because of the gore or some other reason).

After their friend is enticed away from them while playing a game, four girls are unable to help the police in identifying the murderer.  The murdered girl’s mother visits the girls a few years later, promising revenge on each of them unless they find the murderer or atone for themselves.  This has a profound impact on each of the girls and the novel tells the tragic tale of the paths their lives have followed.

Each of the girls has an interesting tale to tell, about how the fateful day unfolded and the subsequent impact on their lives, all of which have elements of tragedy. While these are nicely written, there are some things which are a little hard to believe.  Moreover, because of the structure of the book, where we spend a lengthy time with each of the girls, things become a little confusing in the round.  This confusion ramps up when, having heard from each of the girls, we see things from the murdered girl’s mother’s perspective.  This part of the book is seemingly the one which is meant to wraps things up.  Regrettably, that’s not the case.  What we’re served up is ultimately pretty confusing, and, while I got the gist of the events that led to the murder, I wasn’t compelled to retread my steps to check my understanding. Why should I?

Despite the confusing nature of the book, I thought it was a good enough read but I don’t think I’d recommend it.  And there wasn’t much ‘eww’ in it either!