My rating: 3 of 5 stars
uber-creepy, full of some great psychologizing.
a single-parent teacher’s young daughter is drowned at the teacher’s school… and she has a long end-of-year conversation with her class and the murderers who drowned the girl.
each chapter is told from a different point of view–the teacher’s, some kids in her class, the mother of of one of her students. Minato draws each character clearly and in depth as they tell their parts of the story.
for a western reader, some aspects of the tale may not make much sense–the bond between teacher and student (like ours, on steroids), the duty accorded to each, the relationships among the children. of course human bonds are all similar at base, but the japanese have their own take, particularly as each bond relates to societal duty. some of this may come across as rather strange for westerners.
i can’t say i’ve had experience with the student/teacher relationship in japan, although from my reading of japanese culture, what’s portrayed here is not entirely overstated. i’ll have to interview some of my japanese friends on some particulars, however.
japanese murder mysteries are rarely about whodunit, but are instead about howdunit or whydunit. they’re either logistical puzzles or psychological ones–in this case, definitely the latter. knowing each of the potential murderers intimately, the teacher in this novel is less concerned with why, or even with exacting legal punishment, than she is with revenge. and that’s where the story gets really, really interesting.
only one thing bugged me about this book: the story’s reliance on gadgetry. electrical-shock delivery systems, lie detectors, and even weapons of mass destruction just sort of pop up as needed to propel the plot, and that got on my nerves. i have a terribly hard time believing that a middle-school child, however mechanically adept, could just pop out gadgetry as needed rather a stretch. i have to say, though, that a friend pointed out to me that you can get a youtube video on how to remove your car’s steering wheel and replace it, no sweat. so maybe it’s not 100% a stretch.
if you’re a westerner planning to read it, just remember this: everything in japan is about relationship. we of the west are all about individuality. skew your brain to the notion that the group is the end-all, be-all, and you’ll be able to understand this a lot better.
and enjoy! it’s a twisted tale, a twisty tale, and the ending will blow you away.