The Aosawa Murders

What should have been a serendipitous event--a lavish birthday celebration for three generations in 1973--turns horrific, leaving 17 family and friends dead. Decades after the tragedy, The Aosawa Murders might be a closed case, but Japanese novelist Riku Onda has plenty more scintillating details to reveal. Onda's English debut is seamlessly translated by Alison Watts.

The Aosawas are a prominent family--professionally respected for running the town's medical clinic and personally admired because of their longstanding wealth and privilege. On that fateful birthday, a commemorative gift delivery of sake and spirits ushers in violent deaths, leaving a single Aosawa survivor. The only daughter, Hisako, was in the midst of it all, but being blind prevented her from definitively identifying any suspects. The perpetrator--although seemingly unknown and unconnected to the Aosawas--allegedly confesses before hanging himself, but his suicide never quite absolves lovely, untouchable Hisako of being somehow involved.

Eleven years later, Makiko Saiga, who was a neighborhood child when the murders occurred, publishes The Forgotten Festival. The fictionalized adaptation becomes a runaway bestseller. Two additional decades pass and, suddenly, an unnamed interviewer has started asking questions. Even after all this time, those directly--but also remotely--involved have memories to resurrect, theories to ponder, maybe even a few secrets to divulge finally.

With sophisticated precision, Onda meticulously imparts both whodunnit and whydunnit clues throughout, adroitly manipulating readers in a cat-and-mouse game of discovering what really happened. Originally published in 2005 as EugeniaAosawa is Onda's debut crime novel, for which she earned the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Fiction in 2006. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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