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The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda
The Aosawa Murders
by Riku Onda
“A superb mystery in the true sense of the word.” Asahi Shimbun
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.
“This spine-chilling masterpiece will make you aware of the dark places in your own heart.” Hokkaido Shimbun
The Aosawa Murders is a Japanese murder mystery, and I was enthralled with this book from the get go. This is a book that demands your attention as you are swept away the story. The tale is told from many perspectives that can be confusing at times but each weaves into the greater story – In the late 70’s 17 people die from cyanide poisoning in their drinks, the only survivor is the Aosawas blind daughter, Hisako. Throughout the story you begin to wonder if Hisako being spared was a blessing or if she was the mastermind in her families death. No suspects, a suicide of the apparent murderer – yet this person had no ties to the family so what would his motive have been to kill them?
With translated books there is scope for things to be lost in translation but this book was immaculate and so descriptive that nothing was lost at all. Told in various perspectives and styles from interviews, police reports and journal entries this is a book that will have you questioning everything you are reading.
The Author and the Translator
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.
Alison Watts is an Australian-born Japanese to English translator and long time resident of Japan. She has translated Aya Goda’s TAO: On the Road and On the Run in Outlaw China (Portobello, 2007) and Durian Sukegawa’s Sweet Bean Paste (Oneworld Publications, 2017), and her translations of The Aosawa Murders and Spark (Pushkin Press, 2020) by Naoki Matayaoshi are forthcoming.