In the 1960s, 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a large party at the Aosawas, owners of a prominent clinic in an ancient castle city on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The only survivor is their teenage daughter Hisako, blind, beautiful, admired by all, but soon suspected of masterminding the crime.
Riku Onda uses an unusual structure in that each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character involved in the case ... Like much good noir, this story is guided by the characters’ fears and doubts, both leading up to the crime and in its aftermath. Onda sets the murders in 1970s Japan, and focuses on a disparity between rich and poor in what has more commonly been portrayed as a relatively egalitarian society ... Those wishing a novel to parallel the Oscar-winning film Parasite might find that The Aosawa Murders fits the bill.
... she explores not just the psychology and motivations of her characters, but also the meta nature of our relationship to murder mysteries and, in an abstract sense, the murderer—all while constructing the perfect crime around a surprisingly simple (and familiar) formula ... Alison Watts’s translation engages the reader but is difficult to pin down due to the nature of the form. Because every element is subordinated to the puzzle, the prose and characters in honkaku and shin honkaku mysteries tend to be underdeveloped. This, too, is done on purpose. So, while there are moments in The Aosawa Murders, sections of plot and dialogue which appear affected, in my experience this is fairly typical of the subgenre. Onda stands out among her community in that she has delved further into her characters’ psyches than most, and the novel is at its best when the author is posing questions that exist adjacent to the murders.
In her first work translated into English, Mystery Writers of Japan Award winner Onda gives mystery readers a modern-day Rashomon story using the voices of witnesses and suspects in a finely crafted and intricate novel ... A chilling and skillfully crafted mystery about the spellbinding spaces between evidence, facts, intuition, and the will of a killer.