BOOK THOUGHTS: The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda

I have been struggling with my reading a lot lately as I write this (I think because things are so busy and I’m reading a lot of fiction for work too?) and I’ve found it really hard to concentrate on novels, it seems easier to read little bits of nonfiction history books lately…. but FINALLY because of this book, I finished a novel! Yay!


The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.

The police are convinced Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’ and witness to the discovery of the killings. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself. 

BOOK REVIEW: The Aosawa Murders

This is a dark, slow burn and lush crime novel, translated from the original Japanese. I kind of had to let it sit for a while after finishing, to gather my thoughts.

I loved reading this, it was so easy to sink into, atmospheric and creepy, with a very interesting framework for telling a crime mystery.

Told in sets of (kind of) interviews many years after the actual event, the book plays with the idea of truth. If everyone tells a slightly altered version of events (because time changes the truth or people talk of their own interpretation), and no one knows what really happened, then what does the idea of truth even mean? I liked that idea a lot, and loved trying to piece together the hints to figure out what happened (a mass murder at a party using poison… goodness!)

I must admit, though I still love the book, I felt the ending was a little flat for me? Though I also feel like maybe I was silly and didn’t really grasp the true meaning behind the hints? I am uncertain, but am still really glad I read this book.

My favourite aspect of reading this book (aside from how easily I sunk into this lush chilling world) was probably the unique framework. A story woven together by interviews and excerpts and memory, though I then found it a little jolting when a normal narrative style crept in toward the end.

All in all a really good crime mystery, chilling and lushly atmospheric. I really enjoyed reading this one!

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