A suspect’s hobby, an overheard word, and a bottle cap knocked eschew: everything is a clue in Riku Onda’s riveting novel The Aosawa Murders, whose terrible central crime cannot be solved too many times.
Some cases capture the public’s imagination with such ferocity that they beg to be revived. This proves true of the seaside murders of the Aosawa family and their guests, who were collectively poisoned during an otherwise envied party decades ago. Only a few survived, including some latecomers and the family’s much admired, supersensitive daughter, Hisako.
On that day, Hisako sat blind among the writhing victims; to the investigating detectives, she could only report a memory from her childhood. Such details fascinated Maki, whom Hisako warned off from attending the party, but who still arrived just in time to call the police. Always envious of the perspectives of others, Maki resolved to understand the mind of the murderer, leading her to write The Forgotten Festival, a meticulous inquest into the crime.
The Forgotten Festival was the murders’ first revival. Just when it seems bound to be forgotten, too, another investigator decides to fill in its holes and correct its misdirections, conducting third interviews with all of those connected to the case. Whether they overlap or are contradictory, these interviews are shared in their entirety, forming the novel’s core. They ignite and squelch doubt, proffer tantalizing hints, make survivors suspect, and render potential culprits sympathetic.
As they muse about the natures of love, complicity, and endurance, each subject suggests a theory, and each theory warrants its own minor obsessions. Intoxicating details and shiver-inducing propositions hold the full story at a careful distance; when the truth emerges, it’s both partial and staggering. The Aosawa Murders is an intricate and devastating search for the facts behind a complicated crime.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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