Book review: 『白光』by Mikihiko Renjo

Cover of 白光. Cover illustration: a background of blurred leaves with white light coming through them and pink flowers on the foreground.
Title: 白光 (びゃっこう)
Genre:
First published: 2002
Page Count: 298
ごく普通のありきたりな家庭。夫がいて娘がいて、いたって平凡な日常―のはずだった。しかし、ある暑い夏の日、まだ幼い姪が自宅で何者かに殺害され庭に埋められてしまう。この殺人事件をきっかけに、次々に明らかになっていく家族の崩壊、衝撃の事実。殺害動機は家族全員に存在していた。真犯人はいったい誰なのか?

This book is both an engrossing mystery and an exploration of family secrets, jealousy, resentment, and a burdening past. When four-year-old Naoko is found dead, murdered, the members of the family will have to face their secrets and their shameful wishes.

I really admire the construction of this novel which manages to build a complex web of plausible explanations and sequences of events around the murder. I do think though, that the novel went a bit too far in its numerous twists, especially the last chapter felt a little too far-fetched to me. This being said, the characters and their psychology were very well portrayed, to the point where it becomes possible for the reader to understand and, to a certain extend, sympathise with each of them. Even if it is sometimes hard to justify their actions, the characters felt real enough.

The structure of the book is also interesting. We follow the different members of the family one after the other, and we get to know their opinion about each other. We often see a character first through the eyes of others before we finally get to hear their own voice.

What was really good is that each member of the family gives their version of the events, but we realise that they don’t get the whole picture and that their prejudices often influence how they interpret the facts. It started to feel a bit repetitive at some point because we go several times trough the same facts, but it was still engaging until the end.