One summer’s day, the Aosawas – owners of a prominent local hospital in a prefecture on the Sea of Japan – host a large birthday party at which seventeen people die of cyanide poisoning. The only family member spared is the Aosawa’s blind daughter Hisako, who is soon suspected to be involved in the crime. Here begins Riku Onda’s The Aosawa Murders, our second Book of the Month for January 2020.
Riku Onda’s English-language debut (translated from Japanese by Alison Watts) is told from a range of perspectives, using only the characters’ answers to interview questions. With the voices of an obsessed detective, the Aosawa’s housekeeper’s daughter, and a childhood friend of Hisako who grew up to write a book about the murders, Onda creates a layered whodunnit with what has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a nesting-doll plot”.
The Aosawa Murders was originally published in 2005 under the title Eugenia, and won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Fiction the following year. It’s easy to see why, as the press so far happily demonstrates;
… rich and strange, utterly absorbing. Onda makes you aware of ‘another, different world below the surface of this one’.” – The Times
“The genius of this novel is that it cultivates a nonstop air of menace. Practically every character comes off like a potential murderer.” – New York Journal of Books
“An enigmatic and haunting crime novel.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This dark and dazzling novel defies easy categorisation but consistently tantalises and surprises.” – Kirkus (starred review)
“On the one hand, this is a ‘country house’ murder like no other (‘slaughter’ might be a better word) and along the way, there are fascinating insights into Japanese life, as well as death.” – Shots Mag
The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda is out 16th of January 2020 from Bitter Lemon Press (Bitter Lemon Press, 9781912242245, p/b, £8.99)
Fancy a review copy? If you’re a UK book blogger or reviewer, get in touch at email@example.com.