Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Villain: Shuichi Yoshida

From the  Random House website:
A chilling and seductive story of loneliness, desperation, and murder, Villain is the English-language debut of one of Japan’s most popular writers. 
 A woman is killed at a ghostly mountain pass in southern Japan and the local police quickly pinpoint a suspect. But as the puzzle pieces of the crime slowly click into place, new questions arise. Is a villain simply the person who commits a crime or are those who feel no remorse for malicious behavior just as guilty? Moving from office parks and claustrophobic love hotels to desolate seaside towns and lighthouses, Shuichi Yoshida’s dark thriller reveals the inner lives of men and women who all have something to hide.

This novel had contrasting elements. This story is much more in the thriller vein than other Japanese mysteries I have read. The pacing is slow at times, but there is plenty of action at several points in the story. The tension heightens at the end.

The author focuses on the primary characters involved in the murder and the peripheral characters whose lives are affected by it. I enjoyed the way the story was told, from multiple points of view. The narrative goes back and forth between events before the murder and the search for the suspects. The story of the parents of the victim and the grandparents of one of the suspects was just as interesting to me as the story of the murder and the hunt for various suspects. This story is bleak. However, I did not find it a depressing read.

See also reviews by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading and Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog. Keishon's post is a discussion between Keishon and another blogger with some spoilers.

One of the points that both of these reviews make was that the US cover with the gun made up of human bones bears no relation to the story. That is very true. But it is a cool cover and if I had not seen the cover in a bookstore several years ago, I probably would not have read this book.

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Publisher:   Pantheon Books, 2010 (orig. pub. 2007)
Translator:  Philip Gabriel
Length:       295 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Setting:       Japan
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       I purchased this book.

18 comments:

  1. OK, that cover is amazing and creepy. Somebody had to puzzle that together, I would assume. The book itself sounds interesting, but I would have picked it up for the cover.

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    1. I agree, Kay, and I was glad that the copy I ran into first was this one.

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  2. Tracy - It's interesting that this novel has a variety of points of view. I've noticed that with the Japanese crime fiction I've read: the narratives often shift as different characters' perspectives are shared. I'm glad this one worked for you.

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    1. Margot, I do like stories with multiple points of view. And I did not find the shifts from one point in time to another confusing either.

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  3. Well. That is a really cool cover though so yeah, I can see the appeal. So glad to see you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I have his other one, Parade, to read one day soon. From the few pages I read, it sounds a lot different from Villian but that's only a guess. His subject seems to be about disillusioned youth with criminal elements thrown in.

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    1. Keishon, I looked into Parade a bit after finishing this one and it does seem worth reading. I hope you do read it sometime soon, so I can see how you like it.

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  4. TracyK: What a stunning cover. I might have bought the book because of the cover. You cannot forget it.

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    1. Bill, I am glad that I enjoyed the novel, because I will be keeping this book for my skeleton covers collection regardless.

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  5. Thanks TracyK - I have read very little Japanese crime fiction but very much plan to change this in 2015.

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    1. You are back, Sergio. How wonderful. I have found Japanese crime fiction to be worthwhile... the little I have read.

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  6. Sounds interesting. I'm unsure if I picked this one up or not. Have you previously featured this on the blog? Or was it something similar.......I'm not great on Japanese crime and distinguishing between the different books and authors is not a strength - they blur and merge after a while!

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    1. Col, I used the image of the cover when I joined the Japanese Lit Challenge. The Japanese crime fiction I have read does seem to be written in a similar style, although this book by Yoshida and possibly his next one focus more on the alienation of youth in society ... more than the others I have read.

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  7. Tracy, that's one hell of a cover, probably the best one I have seen this year, and the book promises to unleash a good story. I don't mind them "bleak" or "depressing."

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    1. Prashant, as usual, whether I can take bleak or dark or depressing really depends on how the author writes. But I usually do like a touch of bleakness.

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  8. That's so funny about the cover! You, and your commentators, and I are all saying the same - that the cover would pull us in. I think in terms of books I'd be more inclined to try Salvation of a Saint than this one.

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    1. Moira, the story was very interesting to me, but would not appeal to many because of the bleak look at life (although it was not all unremittingly depressing, and there were some interesting older people who asserted themselves nicely). Salvation of a Saint is much more of a mystery puzzle type story. Glen will be getting Malice by Keigo Higashino soon (not the same series) and we are both looking forward to that one.

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  9. Tracy, good review. I was just looking at what others had posted for JLC8 and noticed your review. I've really enjoyed japenese crime this season, and now your review is added a new book to my list. Thanks

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    1. Thanks for checking out my review, Tamara, and for the kind words. You did really well with the Japanese Literature Challenge. I do recommend this book.

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