Book review: 『絆』by Kenji Kosugi

Cover of 絆. Covver illustration: Black silhouette of a woman standing and turned to the right. The background could be waves.
Title: 絆 (きずな)
First published: 1987
Page Count: 328
In today’s trial, a woman is accused of murdering her husband. But for our protagonist, a journalist specialised in court reports, two points make this trial stand out: the defendant is a woman he had a crush on, and the lawyer is none other than Harashima, who had retired but came back specially for this case. More intriguing still… the defendant says she is guilty, but Harashima is set on proving her innocence.

This novel won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1988. It features lawyer Harashima who also appears in a previous collection of short stories (原島弁護士の愛と悲しみ). I haven’t read it, so I cannot say if you should read this collection first, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 絆 contained spoilers of Harashima’s previous cases, because it does give the outcome of a previous trial that was important for Harashima. Lawyer Mizuki also appears in this novel (he is another recurrent lawyer in Kenji Kosugi’s legal thrillers), but his role is minor.

Review

As someone who likes legal thriller, I really enjoyed reading 『絆』. The story entirely takes place in the courtroom, so it is exclusively focused on the case. The case progresses through the account of witnesses, and I particularly enjoyed this type of narrative.

The book was really engrossing, I just could not put it down. I particularly like the first half, where we discuss the circunstances of the murder. The story then evolves into an exploration of the defendant’s past, which was maybe a bit less exciting, but still very good. It also touches upon important topics like discrimination against persons who are disabled.

Unfortunately, I found that the end was a bit weak and the motivations of the characters difficult to understand. In the end, the character of the defendant was not really convincing to me, but this did not prevent me from enjoying the book.

I read another book by this author, 『父からの手紙』, and I thought at first that the two books were very different, but entering the second half of 『絆』 , the story focuses less and less on the murder case, and more and more on family secrets and what happened int he past, which reminded me of 『父からの手紙』.

I recommend 『絆』if you don’t mind the very static setting (apart from some flashback, we basically never leave the courthouse). Even though the end felt not convincing enough, I still could not put the book down and it only took me four days to finish.

Other books by this author:
父からの手紙 (ちちからのてがみ)