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The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. 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 person spared injury. The youth who emerges The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. 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 person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. The police are convinced 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, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’s and witness to the discovery of the killings. 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.


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The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. 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 person spared injury. The youth who emerges The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. 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 person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. The police are convinced 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, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’s and witness to the discovery of the killings. 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.

30 review for The Aosawa Murders

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The Aosawa Murders, originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, is Riku Onda’s English-language debut and her first crime novel. She’s been writing since 1991, however, so this novel isn’t the product of a novice author. Some time in the 1970s, in a city on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a respected physician hosts a birthday party on an unusually hot afternoon. Seventeen guests, including several children, are poisoned by cyanide-laced beverages. All but one guest who consume the beve The Aosawa Murders, originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, is Riku Onda’s English-language debut and her first crime novel. She’s been writing since 1991, however, so this novel isn’t the product of a novice author. Some time in the 1970s, in a city on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a respected physician hosts a birthday party on an unusually hot afternoon. Seventeen guests, including several children, are poisoned by cyanide-laced beverages. All but one guest who consume the beverages – a long-time housekeeper -- die. The sole family member to survive the massacre is Hisako, a blind daughter of the host. Notwithstanding the heat, she doesn’t drink a beverage and, further, she sits calmly in an armchair in the living room as the guests drink, then promptly die agonizing deaths, in her presence. Several months after the murders, a young man with no connection to the family commits suicide, leaving behind a written confession. The police close the case, but no one believes that the case is solved, and community suspicion centers on Hisako, as the decades pass. What is fresh and brilliant about this novel is Onda’s choice to tell her story by presenting a series of monologues, most of which are captured years after the core crime. Each chapter presents the perspective of one of a dozen or so characters with close or tenuous links to the tragedy. Each character shares his or her recollections and thoughts in response to the questions of an unseen, unidentified interviewer. The questions aren’t shared with the reader. The sheer number of characters, the order in which Onda presents them and links them, is masterful. There’s just the right amount of grey to go around, and the fall-out continues as the story unfolds. Each character’s voice is remarkably different, and the fact that each chapter shifts perspective requires the reader to pay far more close attention than one might with a straightforward narrative. That close reading is mere table stakes. Onda’s approach serves to keep the reader unbalanced, uncertain, uneasy. Particularly in the first several chapters, the lack of context or introduction to each character may frustrate a reader accustomed to genre fiction that, for example, labels chapters by character, but what Onda offers instead is a consistent narrative obscured by a light fog. The result is a pervasive sense that one has failed to make a connection or notice a key factor. And then it ends, with a dark, incomplete explanation, because that’s far more tantalizing and believable than the detailed, check-off-all-unknowns reveal some authors offer. So why 4 stars? Something didn’t feel entirely right to me about the early tagging of Hisako as the responsible party. Onda wants to tell a “why” mystery rather than a “who,” and she delivers against that in spades. But I kept fighting against accepting that Hisako had the scarlet M on her forehead for murderer because it seemed somehow too neat and not entirely supported by the narrative I was given. I can’t tell you what’s missing, but that missing ingredient renders Aosawa Murders a strong and intriguing 4-star read and not quite a 5. What is present, though, is well worth prioritizing amongst your 2020 reads. If you’re a Japanese literature or mystery fan, move it to the top of your list ASAP. Plus - that cover. That cover is gorgeous. Thanks to Bitter Lemon Press, one of my favorite indie presses and one of the most consistent sources for interesting translated fiction by women authors. They should be getting your book dollars if you’re wanting to see more #WomenInTranslation. And, yes, I received a free e-copy of Aosawa Murders from BLP and Edelweiss+.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    The Aosawa Murders by by Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator) is a 2020 Bitter Lemon Press publication. This Japanese mystery is certainly perplexing, with an interesting and unique presentation of the facts. Unfortunately, I had a very hard time with this novel. We've all struggled with the ability to focus lately, which made this a bad time to tackle this book, perhaps. So, I put the novel down for a while, then picked it back up only to feel more lost than ever. I started over from the beginn The Aosawa Murders by by Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator) is a 2020 Bitter Lemon Press publication. This Japanese mystery is certainly perplexing, with an interesting and unique presentation of the facts. Unfortunately, I had a very hard time with this novel. We've all struggled with the ability to focus lately, which made this a bad time to tackle this book, perhaps. So, I put the novel down for a while, then picked it back up only to feel more lost than ever. I started over from the beginning, reading slowly, and concentrating as best I could. But, no matter what, I remained confused, and the ending, after all that trouble, turned out to be one of those open to interpretation, ambiguous conclusions that only compounded my frustrations with the book. I was a little miffed, to be honest. Normally I would love a crafty, original story like this one because of its extraordinary approach and the clever way the story unfolds. But, it never grabbed me. I think it could be one those 'it’s not you, it’s me’ situations- 'a cliché, I know, but I think maybe that’s the case for me with this book, since it appears to have been well- received, overall. Mystery lovers who enjoy, dark, cultural and historical crime fiction will probably love this one. It is a challenge and will be a nice change of pace for those who are looking for something a little different, that doesn't follow the usual crime formulas. It just didn’t work for me at this time. 2 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    seriously, somewhere between a 4.5 and a 5. I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. full post here: http://www.crimesegments.com/2020/03/... Generally I don't reread crime/mystery novels because I can only be surprised once, but this is no ordinary crime/mystery novel, and it affected me much more the second time through. After the original read I knew I had something great in my hands but things were still a bit murky; rereading brought clarity and I was flat out chilled. The Aosawa Murders is no seriously, somewhere between a 4.5 and a 5. I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. full post here: http://www.crimesegments.com/2020/03/... Generally I don't reread crime/mystery novels because I can only be surprised once, but this is no ordinary crime/mystery novel, and it affected me much more the second time through. After the original read I knew I had something great in my hands but things were still a bit murky; rereading brought clarity and I was flat out chilled. The Aosawa Murders is not simply about discovering the who and the why behind the horrific deaths of seventeen people. Among other issues, the author so disturbingly reveals throughout this story that although these murders happened thirty years earlier, that day took its toll and had a lasting, often devastating impact on several people, and continues to do so in the present. She also asks the question of how to get to the real truth behind events, especially when it comes from so many different perspectives; there's also the ultimate question of responsibility. The author should be commended on how she put this book together, ultimately leaving it to the reader to go through several perspectives using personal recollections, newspaper articles, diaries, excerpts from a book etc. to pick up a number of clues before arriving at the chilling truth of what actually happened that day and why. I discovered that there is nothing wasted here, that everything that everyone says is important, and the trick is in putting together things that may not at first seem to matter or to be connected. We are handed that clue at the outset by one of the characters who, as she is walking around the city, talks about a "synaptic experience...all connected but separate." If you must have a linear, easy-to-follow plot, or you're not one to really sit and think about what you've just read, this book is likely not for you. This novel is brilliant; it is very different and quite cleverly constructed so as to provide a challenge to even the most seasoned of crime or mystery fiction readers. It zeroes in on human nature which moves it well into the literary zone, which is where I most enjoy being. This book is not just Japanese crime fiction at its best; it is crime fiction at its very best. highly, highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    3.5 stars. Part of the pleasure of a Japanese puzzle mystery is that it won't follow the same formula and beats as an American one. (Puzzle mysteries aren't all that common in American crime fiction.) It will feel unfamiliar in structure and tone, it will not hit the usual emotional beats. THE AOSAWA MURDERS certainly delivers in that respect. The crime is shocking and unusual (a family and their guests at a party all poisoned), and the book jumps all around, mostly coming to the reader in long m 3.5 stars. Part of the pleasure of a Japanese puzzle mystery is that it won't follow the same formula and beats as an American one. (Puzzle mysteries aren't all that common in American crime fiction.) It will feel unfamiliar in structure and tone, it will not hit the usual emotional beats. THE AOSAWA MURDERS certainly delivers in that respect. The crime is shocking and unusual (a family and their guests at a party all poisoned), and the book jumps all around, mostly coming to the reader in long monologues as some unknown person asks people involved with the crime about their stories. We also get a story-within-a-story, as one of the children who discovered the crime has written a book based on it, which we suspect has some kind of additional importance. I should note that this book doesn't wrap up in a nice, simple bow. (Puzzle mysteries often do.) But if you like your mysteries to follow a formula, this probably isn't a good pick for you anyway.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    I can't believe we've been denied the voice of Author Onda for lo! these many years. She's been creating a giant ouevre since 1991. It's wonderful that we have so much good stuff to come; it's a howling shame that English-language crime-fiction readers haven't had Author Onda's words until now. But let me tell you why that's a crime. Mystery novels, ones with a sleuth you follow around as she pokes her nose into many places that people with secrets would strongly prefer she didn't or cops whose s I can't believe we've been denied the voice of Author Onda for lo! these many years. She's been creating a giant ouevre since 1991. It's wonderful that we have so much good stuff to come; it's a howling shame that English-language crime-fiction readers haven't had Author Onda's words until now. But let me tell you why that's a crime. Mystery novels, ones with a sleuth you follow around as she pokes her nose into many places that people with secrets would strongly prefer she didn't or cops whose sense of honor will not let them close an unsolved case, are thick on the ground. The true-crime genre is booming in this Time of Plague. But these are books that run on formulas. They're hugely appealing formulas, ones that reinforce the ma'at of society and thus fly in the face of most peoples' lived experience. They sell in their millions because their audience (which skews female for series-mystery fiction and true crime) hungers with a near-starved need for Justice to be served, even if the law is flouted. Author Onda, via the very talented Translator Alison Watts, doesn't present us with such a jigsaw puzzle of a book, with correct answers that form an interlocked and coherent image. She gives us a crossword puzzle...yes, there are correct answers...several of them...and it's your job to sort out which ones make the desired connections in the overall mass of information. Just don't expect a portrait of a killer! The rest is on my blog because there wasn't room here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    An exceptionally well-written, ultra-twisty murder mystery. Onda uses a variety of styles and literary devices (letters, diaries, interviews in which we read only the responses, and more standard first and third person accounts) to build a very complex story about what appears to be a motiveless but hideously evil mass murder. She provides us with a great deal of data, many opinions, loads of atmosphere (the weather itself is nearly a character and almost certainly an accomplice), and a handful An exceptionally well-written, ultra-twisty murder mystery. Onda uses a variety of styles and literary devices (letters, diaries, interviews in which we read only the responses, and more standard first and third person accounts) to build a very complex story about what appears to be a motiveless but hideously evil mass murder. She provides us with a great deal of data, many opinions, loads of atmosphere (the weather itself is nearly a character and almost certainly an accomplice), and a handful of "clues" but, ultimately, she never quite gives us closure. This lack of a clear answer is what I think propels this book beyond the "mystery" genre and into something more closely resembling horror or the gothic. The "puzzle" here isn't the crime or the culprit but human nature itself and we're left with much to consider as we turn the final page. This is the first work by Onda to be translated into English. If her other writing is even half as good then it's to be hoped that it will also be translated very soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raven

    Having a wee bit of a sojourn into Japanese crime fiction so couldn’t resist the premise of this one- a mass poisoning at a family gathering and a degree of doubt of the guilt of the man accused of the crime. What transpires is a clever, compelling and perfectly plotted tale that at times throws up many more questions than it answers… Composed of a series of vignettes in an almost testimonial form, the book circles around a collection of people that had either had a direct connection to the crime Having a wee bit of a sojourn into Japanese crime fiction so couldn’t resist the premise of this one- a mass poisoning at a family gathering and a degree of doubt of the guilt of the man accused of the crime. What transpires is a clever, compelling and perfectly plotted tale that at times throws up many more questions than it answers… Composed of a series of vignettes in an almost testimonial form, the book circles around a collection of people that had either had a direct connection to the crime, or some kind of personal connection to the victims, the accused or were merely onlookers to the strange events of the Aosawa murders. This had a mesmerising effect of either drawing the reader closely in to the actual event or holding us at an arm’s length as some of the narrators had a much less involved role in the central crime. As you reach the end of each little section, you find yourself having a sense of wonderful anticipation as to whether the next narrative will provide further clues as to the tragic events of that day and unmask the true killer. What then transpires is an intriguing game of hide and reveal as the author cunningly withholds, and then suddenly exposes, the personal narratives that inch us closer to a satisfying resolution. I loved the adoption of this particular structure which leads to a circular narrative instead of a more simplistic linear one, and looking back on the book now, even the most seemingly unimportant character testimony can withhold vital clues. Alongside this intriguing narrative structure, the author also injects the book with some incredibly interesting ruminations on the role of truth and memory, be it in the dissection of a crime or in the more every day scenario of us constructing our personal histories, and what we perceive as truthful memories. Onda consistently makes the point that truth is always filtered through an individual’s perception of events, and what is ‘true’ to one person’s perception of an event, may not be reflective of another’s perception of the same event. This theory is mirrored throughout the book with the use of the polyphonic voices as each character recounts their perception of the Aosawa murders, whatever their personal distance from the crime. Consequently, the reader is engaged in a mystery where nobody’s account can be taken at face value, and sometimes looking back on the event, in the case of the now retired detective, can cast doubt on what was taken as truth at the time, and new avenues of investigation can open up. This idea of filtered truth also applies to our perception of the main protagonists as we see them reflected through the testimonies of others, altering our perception or leading us to have or own suspicions as to their role in the crime, or how they have implicated others. With such a complexity in the characterisation and plotting, there is always a danger of the author losing focus on the more statutory elements of a story in terms of setting and atmosphere, which grounds the reader in the unique location and environment of the book. Not so with this one, as there is a fixed attention on the diurnal course of nature, and equally how an appreciation of the natural environment and seasonal changes provide both succour and inspiration for some of the key characters. I thought that some of the more extended naturalistic writing was beautiful in its delivery, and afforded some time for the reader to have the grip of dark deeds loosened from time to time. When taken in unison with the sophisticated plotting, and more existential musing on truth and memory, this endeared me to this book even more, as I am always intrigued to how the crime genre can be stretched and manipulated to broaden its horizons. A definite candidate for a favourite crime read of the year, and highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    i.

    An unconventional mystery novel for readers who have read it all. I liked the different points of view of the story although at times it seemed slightly confusing. I strongly recommend this novel to fans of Japanese culture, they will find it delightful in spite of the horrific crime committed at the beginning of the novel. Don't expect a crystal clear ending, though, it doesn't end abruptly but I wish the author had been more explicit. There are several clues throughout the novel that make me th An unconventional mystery novel for readers who have read it all. I liked the different points of view of the story although at times it seemed slightly confusing. I strongly recommend this novel to fans of Japanese culture, they will find it delightful in spite of the horrific crime committed at the beginning of the novel. Don't expect a crystal clear ending, though, it doesn't end abruptly but I wish the author had been more explicit. There are several clues throughout the novel that make me think it takes place in the city of Kanazawa, known for the amazing Kenrokuen garden. However, it's just called K-city in the book. www.theleisurediaries.blogspot.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Regina Lemoine

    3.5 stars. The narrative structure of this novel is unique and interesting but I’m not sure I liked being kept at such a distance from both plot and character. I’m also not completely sure about what actually happened. I’m okay with ambiguous endings in general, but I wanted a bit more in the way of closure here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    shazzalovesnovels

    "I can only ever be myself for the rest of my life - I can't be you, or Mother. I'll never know what other people are thinking, only what I think - don't you think that's boring?" Best to go into this one blind. But I will tell you this: ... It was an absolutely unnerving read. Told from the views of several individuals, The Aosawa Murders will creep you the hell out (hopefully). It took me a few pages to acclimate to the writing (it was translated from Japanese and felt a little wordy) but once "I can only ever be myself for the rest of my life - I can't be you, or Mother. I'll never know what other people are thinking, only what I think - don't you think that's boring?" Best to go into this one blind. But I will tell you this: ... It was an absolutely unnerving read. Told from the views of several individuals, The Aosawa Murders will creep you the hell out (hopefully). It took me a few pages to acclimate to the writing (it was translated from Japanese and felt a little wordy) but once you get used to it, good luck putting it down. Perfect for the spooky season. but if you want to make it a little less creepy, imagine it as an anime in your head haha. I loved this book so much because I found it somewhat philosophical. There are so many things said that I felt so deeply and on another level I can't quite put it into words. I cannot wait to buy a physical copy. I realize suddenly that a human smile can sometimes look like a tree split in two.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is just my opinion, of course, but the concept of singular is a subtle but important factor in much of Japanese culture. It implies taking a step back to admire something that might be slightly deviant, or unsettling in some way. To coolly observe something repellent and unpleasant and appreciate it as a form of beauty for entertainment. I find that psychology fascinating. Take the ideogram for “singular” for instance, which also contains the meaning of “suspect and unusual”. I see in that This is just my opinion, of course, but the concept of singular is a subtle but important factor in much of Japanese culture. It implies taking a step back to admire something that might be slightly deviant, or unsettling in some way. To coolly observe something repellent and unpleasant and appreciate it as a form of beauty for entertainment. I find that psychology fascinating. Take the ideogram for “singular” for instance, which also contains the meaning of “suspect and unusual”. I see in that a kind of warped humour. With echoes of a sadistic joke, a brutal awakening, or a detached gaze. This was an amazing, complex, creepy, brilliant artistic literary achievement. I’m going to take some time to process it before writing more, but I really loved it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Em*bedded-in-books*

    I love Japanese crime thrillers .The premises were good. I thought I will like this one too.. but this was a muddling read towards the end . I have so many questions and many things remain unclear and hazy I still don't know what happened. End has left me more confused than the beginning. I love Japanese crime thrillers .The premises were good. I thought I will like this one too.. but this was a muddling read towards the end . I have so many questions and many things remain unclear and hazy I still don't know what happened. End has left me more confused than the beginning.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Isaac R. Fellman

    An extraordinarily weird, eighteen-layered pseudo-anthology mystery that takes the form of an oral history of...a different oral history. I’m delighted by the strangeness of this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    amanda

    I wasn’t swept away by the wave. It simply lapped at my feet. Have you ever read a story where you're so completely transfixed that the world around you just seems to slip away? You're not breathing or existing, you're just so in the moment in another galaxy that the only thing that matters are the words on the page. This book was transfixing and written beautifully and that seems odd to say since it's centered around death, a lot of death. There has been a hideous perfect crime. In a castle I wasn’t swept away by the wave. It simply lapped at my feet. Have you ever read a story where you're so completely transfixed that the world around you just seems to slip away? You're not breathing or existing, you're just so in the moment in another galaxy that the only thing that matters are the words on the page. This book was transfixing and written beautifully and that seems odd to say since it's centered around death, a lot of death. There has been a hideous perfect crime. In a castle city based on the coast of the Sea of Japan there has been a mass murder. 17 people of the same family have died from Cyanide Poisoning and there are only two survivors. A gentle housekeeper and the daughter of this elite family who happens to be blind. The daughter's name is Hisako and she is riveting in every way to all. Well, almost all, there is somebody out there who suspects Hisako of committing this heinous crime and he seeks her out in order to finally bring justice. He just might be too late. The Aosawa Murders is a novel where the perspectives of at least 10 people are shown. We are first introduced to Hisako's childhood friend Makiko who has written a book off her experience of witnessing the murders. It's heartbreaking as go through the chain of events and timelines that led up to and after the murder. It's a lesson that even years after the fact, such tragedy can leave lifelong scars on both survivors and their family members. My heart particularly broke for the housekeeper as she became a shadow of who she once was. This book can be confusing at times but with me Japanese novels often are and that's okay. I was lost in the descriptive words and delicate writing and enjoyed myself way more than I thought I would. The end confused me but after rereading it and the beginning again I think I got the gist of it. This is a heartbreaking, creepy tale told beautifully. It serves a reminder that not everything is what it appears to be. Thanks very much to Edelweiss and the publisher for a copy of this ARC. All opinions are my own.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    so thought provoking - on the same lines as the truants and if we were villains

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    A most unusual murder mystery, both set up and way it was written. Haunting and enjoyable. It kept me reading eagerly until the end. 17 people at an Aosawa family gathering in the 1960s are poisoned and most of the people there die. The novel consists of interviews with an unnamed interviewer and of chapters of background. Suspicion falls upon the man who makes the fatal delivery but he commits suicide. An enigmatic poem?/letter? addressed to "Eugenia" is found. What is the role of the family's A most unusual murder mystery, both set up and way it was written. Haunting and enjoyable. It kept me reading eagerly until the end. 17 people at an Aosawa family gathering in the 1960s are poisoned and most of the people there die. The novel consists of interviews with an unnamed interviewer and of chapters of background. Suspicion falls upon the man who makes the fatal delivery but he commits suicide. An enigmatic poem?/letter? addressed to "Eugenia" is found. What is the role of the family's blind daughter, Hisako, one of the survivors? In spite of my reading the novel twice, and in spite of some explanation, it was still partially ambiguous. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    The Aosawa Murders was originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, is the first by Onda to be translated into English. Told in a series of monologues by a variety of characters, this book was hard to put down. ⁣ _⁣ Set in the 70’s in a city on the coast of the Sea of Japan, seventeen guests at the Aosawa’s home were poisoned by cyanide-laced beverages. We learn that all those who drank from these bottles instantly became ill, all but one dying, and we learn that the Aosawas’ daughter, Hi The Aosawa Murders was originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, is the first by Onda to be translated into English. Told in a series of monologues by a variety of characters, this book was hard to put down. ⁣ _⁣ Set in the 70’s in a city on the coast of the Sea of Japan, seventeen guests at the Aosawa’s home were poisoned by cyanide-laced beverages. We learn that all those who drank from these bottles instantly became ill, all but one dying, and we learn that the Aosawas’ daughter, Hisako, did not touch any of the bottles and managed to survive. Hisako, would have been the ideal witness, except for the fact that she was blind. Whoa!!! With all the twist and turns, and trying to fit all the pieces together, this book had me stressing. How the story is formatted did throw me off a little bit, but I enjoyed the complex, unique and contrasting plot. ⁣ _⁣ If you are a fan of murder mysteries, then you will enjoy this book. Thank you, Bitter Lemon Press for this gifted copy.⁣ 4/5 stars ⁣

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melanie’s reads

    Every now and then a book becomes more than the story it is telling. This is such a book, it is a challenge to the reader. A puzzle for you to solve. You will be given a series of clues in many forms. You have to work out not just who but why and are you being told the truth? The book begins with the only survivor Hisako and her testimony. Is she a victim or a murderer? Never knowing who is asking the questions throughout the book and being told thirty years later from multiple perspectives. How Every now and then a book becomes more than the story it is telling. This is such a book, it is a challenge to the reader. A puzzle for you to solve. You will be given a series of clues in many forms. You have to work out not just who but why and are you being told the truth? The book begins with the only survivor Hisako and her testimony. Is she a victim or a murderer? Never knowing who is asking the questions throughout the book and being told thirty years later from multiple perspectives. How much of what you are told is reliable? That is for you to decide. I really enjoyed the slow descriptive unfolding and the Japanese culture being so prominent in its telling. The hot sultry weather and the significance of flowers and cranes adding an elegant almost dream like stance. This book is a prime example of the show don’t tell technique allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the experience of thoughts, senses and feelings and draw their own conclusions. I’m still not sure how I feel about Hisako and I’m sure I would benefit from a reread to see if I missed anything. This is not a quick easy read, this is a television off and no distractions, requiring all your attention. But the reward is a book that makes you think for yourself, never taking the readers intelligence for granted it is captivating and intriguing and beautifully written.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I have never really known what to make of Japanese puzzle mysteries, but this one turned out to be a real doozy. The unresolved case is the horrific cyanide poisoning of 17 people, including three generations of one family. It is a murder in which the only survivor is the blind daughter, Hisako. The mystery is taken up by a present day unnamed interviewer who revisits the unsolved crime, but who also returns to the original investigation by the origami practicing detective thirty years earlier, I have never really known what to make of Japanese puzzle mysteries, but this one turned out to be a real doozy. The unresolved case is the horrific cyanide poisoning of 17 people, including three generations of one family. It is a murder in which the only survivor is the blind daughter, Hisako. The mystery is taken up by a present day unnamed interviewer who revisits the unsolved crime, but who also returns to the original investigation by the origami practicing detective thirty years earlier, and, at the same time, responds to the revelations in a book written by M, Hisako’s childhood friend, Makiko , some ten years following the event. The whole book feels like an investigation into perception and assumption and how each uncovering alters meaning. The ending is unusual. I found myself having to read the final two chapters twice to get all the ‘she’ references clear, and wondered whether that was due to the difficulty of translation, or just my sloppy reading style, but the effort was totally rewarded in the end Loved it!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ana Menendez-tuckman

    I persevered through the first few pages because it was so elusive and unclear plus there is significant going back and forth in time. Once I got myself centered I enjoyed most of the middle portion and was going to give it a four. The last part was so enigmatic and symbolic that left me disappointed so I lowered the rating to 3. Not sure it’s worth the read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Danvers

    I really enjoyed the structure of this and the way that the story unfolds slowly, in its own time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barb (Boxermommyreads)

    I don't read a lot of novels with a Japanese setting so I think that is what originally spoke to me regarding this tale. I am glad I took a chance on The Aosawa Murders because it really paid off. This novel is set around a historical incident in the 1960s where a large group of people died at a party. Although a young man soon after kills himeslf and in the eyes of many, admitting his guilt. However, many, including the local police, aren't sure that the family's daughter also didn't have a role I don't read a lot of novels with a Japanese setting so I think that is what originally spoke to me regarding this tale. I am glad I took a chance on The Aosawa Murders because it really paid off. This novel is set around a historical incident in the 1960s where a large group of people died at a party. Although a young man soon after kills himeslf and in the eyes of many, admitting his guilt. However, many, including the local police, aren't sure that the family's daughter also didn't have a role in the murders, especially given that she is the only one who survived. This book is told in a rather unique style. We know pretty soon up front and then spend the rest of the book unraveling the why of the crime. In the novel, a book is being written about the tragedy, so the reader gets various narratives from individuals who had ties to the case as well as the victims. This style, which I've not encountered frequently, was really well done and kudos to Onda for making it work because see, the questions posed to each person are never revealed. I've seen this book described as a "puzzle mystery" and I think that is a very apt description. Needless to say, The Aosawa Murders captivated me early on and made for an intriguing read. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries and is looking for something a bit unique. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    A fascinating multi-POV mystery novel that's also structurally interesting, and wonderful on the sentence level as well... but it's let down by the fact that the author chose to have disability as one of the main themes without knowing much about disability topics beyond the stereotypes. Sigh. (These themes intensify as the book goes on, but by the point where I was wondering if I should stop reading, I was thoroughly involved in the mystery and wanted to see how it ended.) _____ Source of the boo A fascinating multi-POV mystery novel that's also structurally interesting, and wonderful on the sentence level as well... but it's let down by the fact that the author chose to have disability as one of the main themes without knowing much about disability topics beyond the stereotypes. Sigh. (These themes intensify as the book goes on, but by the point where I was wondering if I should stop reading, I was thoroughly involved in the mystery and wanted to see how it ended.) _____ Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sansriti Tripathi

    slow burn spooky, best read at like 2 am while huddled under your covers

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Parties are great. Parties celebrating the auspicious birthdays of elders are also great. What's not great is when the party is spoiled by cyanide, resulting in the deaths of most people at the party, in vomit-tinged terror.  That's one way to break up a celebration.  But it's the primary focus of this novel – the crime, its aftereffects, and how such an event was received by a variety of community members. The Aosawa Murders might be rooted in an event in an unnamed seaside city in 1973, but it s Parties are great. Parties celebrating the auspicious birthdays of elders are also great. What's not great is when the party is spoiled by cyanide, resulting in the deaths of most people at the party, in vomit-tinged terror.  That's one way to break up a celebration.  But it's the primary focus of this novel – the crime, its aftereffects, and how such an event was received by a variety of community members. The Aosawa Murders might be rooted in an event in an unnamed seaside city in 1973, but it stretches three decades beyond that, to examine how the recollection of an event changes its meaning.  Rika Onda's crime novel was published in Japan in 2005, but wasn't made available in English until 2020. Alison Watts' translation is slick and conveys a reserved, observant tone which sits well with the story within, given that so much of the text is concerned with watching and recording. There's a sense of grasping at the truth, a sense of wanting to understand, or to make a lasting mark which cannot be denied, and it seems suitable that the translation stays out of the way of the story. There's certainly none of the overworked construction which can dog some translations: this is smooth. I'd even suggest that it's placid except it seems less than appropriate upon completion of the work.  It so happens that the crime in question has even been solved, at least as far as the police are concerned. A convenient hanging, and a number of irrefutable pieces of evidence. So what's the point in pursuing the tale, decades later?  The novel owes something to Kurosawa's Rashomon, where aspects of a story are revealed through the narrative of different characters, just as it owes something to Capote's In Cold Blood for that fictionalised history's version of crime and its aftermath. Both influences are especially apparent in one of the major characters, a writer (and survivor of the event who possesses the ability to mimic others) who has written a book about the crime.  It's not just writers who offer their take, though: there's detectives, brothers, blind survivors. There's sections of direct recollection, and sections of interview. There's the feeling that the book is a collection of recollection – a dossier which exists for some purpose other than the ferreting-out of truth. It's the case that the driver of the tale is the pursuit of the truth, but the discovery of the truth seems to be secondary to the examination of the distortions which make themselves known during the quest.  The novel folds answers over answers in a sort of nesting-doll arrangement. We never hear the questioning voice, only the responses, as if almost all the writing has been transcribed from interviews. Each individual's responses offer a little wrinkle on all which have gone before. It's more of a puzzle than the open-and-shut crime you'd expect from a European or American crime novel. Onda's novel feels at times like the origami which typifies a particular character: cuts and folds here and there transform what was into what will be.  But was the guilty party truly brought to book for their crimes?  I could tell you, but my observations might change the outcome. 

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    This has been on my TBR list for a while (I think because of Bookstagram? Or maybe I saw it in one of the blogs I follow? Maybe both?) so when I finally managed to go to the library earlier this month when they re-opened, I hunted (and found!) a copy to read! I was intrigued by this book because the premise of a mass-poisoning at a party really reminded me of Aibou: The Movie, which I would also recommend. The Aosawa Murders is an unconventional mystery that looks at a never-solved fictional mass This has been on my TBR list for a while (I think because of Bookstagram? Or maybe I saw it in one of the blogs I follow? Maybe both?) so when I finally managed to go to the library earlier this month when they re-opened, I hunted (and found!) a copy to read! I was intrigued by this book because the premise of a mass-poisoning at a party really reminded me of Aibou: The Movie, which I would also recommend. The Aosawa Murders is an unconventional mystery that looks at a never-solved fictional mass murders. One day, at a birthday party for a prominent local family, someone delivers poisoned sake and drinks. Seventeen people die, and the only Aosawa family member that lived is Hisako, the blind, beautiful and enigmatic daughter. Now, about two decades later, someone is talking to the people who are connected to the case and as they talk, the truth is gradually revealed. This was a haunting and addictive read. The story is told as a series of interviews, interspersed with clippings, and the topic is not just the Aosawa murders, but also a book published about a decade after the murders: The Forgotten Festival. As it turns out, both the book about the murders and the murders are interlinked, and I was hooked because the truth about the murders and the connection between the event and the book constantly felt close yet out of reach. This sense of elusiveness, by the way, continues all the way to the end of the book. If you need a tidy ending for the murder, you probably want to avoid this. While we know who the murder is (honestly I managed to guess pretty early on, probably because I watched Aibou a few years ago), the motive for the whole thing is suggested rather than explained. I think I understand, but if you asked me to explain what was going on, I probably wouldn’t be able to give you a good answer – which, come to think of it, is probably how a lot of the characters in this book feels. And by the way, I was really impressed with the translator, Alison Watts. The Aosawa Murders is told in a very unconventional style, as a series of interviews (or monologues), but Watts manages to capture the atmosphere of the book brilliantly. Part of the novel talks about summer and I really felt the hot Japanese summer days during those sections. It brought me back to summers in Japan and made me very interested in reading the original version of this (and the other books too). I’d recommend this to people who want an unconventional and evocative murder mystery. It’s an amazing novel that looks into the heart of a crime and though it doesn’t fully answer the questions it poses, I think it gives you a very real look into human nature. This review was first posted at Eustea Reads

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Putting this out there straight away. Hisako did it! Of course she did. I love the way this is written, all those tiny clues scattered through the book and things that don't necessarily seem important that are. Some of these people were insane though, they are fascinated by her but don't really have a close friendship with her. The author who seemed obsessed and wrote the festival book, she was like an empty shell. Is the person they are all talking to the friend (2nd last chapter (view spoiler) Putting this out there straight away. Hisako did it! Of course she did. I love the way this is written, all those tiny clues scattered through the book and things that don't necessarily seem important that are. Some of these people were insane though, they are fascinated by her but don't really have a close friendship with her. The author who seemed obsessed and wrote the festival book, she was like an empty shell. Is the person they are all talking to the friend (2nd last chapter (view spoiler)[and she goes blind!! after talking to Hisako (hide spoiler)] )? I'd love to read another book by Riku.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sjp

    Five stars for the addictive readability and because Japanese puzzle mysteries are my fave genre :) Loved the first person testimonies format. But 4 stars for the ending, which was predictably elusive. So are we saying Blind Hisako was abused by her mistress mother in the Blue Room ..?! And so she manipulated mentally ill monk wannabe with the third eye to deliver poisoned goods ..?! And the Forgotten Festival book was a message to Hisako from her adoring friend suggesting ‘I know what you did t Five stars for the addictive readability and because Japanese puzzle mysteries are my fave genre :) Loved the first person testimonies format. But 4 stars for the ending, which was predictably elusive. So are we saying Blind Hisako was abused by her mistress mother in the Blue Room ..?! And so she manipulated mentally ill monk wannabe with the third eye to deliver poisoned goods ..?! And the Forgotten Festival book was a message to Hisako from her adoring friend suggesting ‘I know what you did that summer and I’m not gonna tell anyone ..?’ I think thats what happened. CREPE MYRTLE

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gerry O'Malley

    Tough book to get through. Put it down more than once and picked it back up out of a stubborn refusal to quit. It starts out promising but pretty quickly it gets ridiculously impossible to keep track of who is being interviewed, who is doing the interviewing and at what point in the story we are. The ending is hopelessly convoluted and undecipherable. I've still no clue who the murderer was. I have half a mind to change my rating to one star. Tough book to get through. Put it down more than once and picked it back up out of a stubborn refusal to quit. It starts out promising but pretty quickly it gets ridiculously impossible to keep track of who is being interviewed, who is doing the interviewing and at what point in the story we are. The ending is hopelessly convoluted and undecipherable. I've still no clue who the murderer was. I have half a mind to change my rating to one star.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I'm not really sure I figured anything out, but reading this novel was a super enjoyable experience* that I kept dragging out. ... * A super enjoyable experience that involves a horrible mass poisoning as the main event. This is notably NOT on any of my kids/YA shelves. I'm not really sure I figured anything out, but reading this novel was a super enjoyable experience* that I kept dragging out. ... * A super enjoyable experience that involves a horrible mass poisoning as the main event. This is notably NOT on any of my kids/YA shelves.

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