Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

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Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: If you can manage to get past the plodding style then this is an interesting, unusual crime story that is less about the crime and more about the emotional fallout afterwards as the murder affects anyone and everyone who knew the victim.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 295 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099526650

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Well, I suppose I'd better begin with the bad which was there were moments at the start of this novel when I thought I couldn't possibly read it right to the end. It's written in such a stilted, factual style with details about the road networks of the local area and exactly how much anyone pays for anything they eat or buy or rent! Faced, for example, with the paragraph cars setting out from Nagasaki that take the pass road to save money take the Nagasaki Expressway from Nagasaki to Omura, then to Higashi-Sonogi and Takeo, and get off at the Saga Yamato interchange. Intersecting this east-west Nagasaki Expressway at the interchange is Route 263 I thought I'd never manage to read more than a couple of lines before falling asleep! Still, I persisted and actually, I'm glad I did.

Although Villain is made out to be a thriller it's actually rather slow paced, and since we know who dunnit fairly quickly there aren't the twists and turns of a typical crime novel. The slow pace at the start leaves you wondering when, exactly, any kind of crime is actually going to take place, and afterwards it is less about what happened and much, much more about how the murder affects those who knew the victim. Perhaps I should say thought they knew the victim since we see her family's reactions to her death and their rejection of any of the stories the police are telling them about who their daughter really was and what sort of a life she was leading.

Almost all the characters are struggling to get by in life, working to live, only just managing to stay afloat. The book portrays an interesting side of Japanese life, as well as a rather seedy side with lots about online dating and love hotels with some sexual content. I found I really began to enjoy the book once the character of Mitsuyo appeared, and when I began to see that the story was perhaps provoking readers to think about what really makes someone a villain and the fact that most people are never quite who they appear to be.

Strangely, I felt by the end that a lot of this story was about love; about family love, the relationships between parents and children and how well they ever really know each other; about loneliness and the longing for romantic love, and what it's like when you finally find the right person; and about sacrificial love, and how far someone will go for someone they love, what they're willing to forgive and what they're willing to say in order to protect the person who means the most to them. A lot of the book feels quite dark and disturbing, with mundane lives lived without the hope of things getting better, but it also had brief glimpses of happiness and became, by the end, quite moving and emotional. If you can get over the initial style worries, and some rather clunky translations at times, then this certainly makes an unusual read.

Further reading suggestion: If you're feeling in the mood for more dark and disturbing Japanese literature then cast an eye over to Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

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Buy Villain by Shuichi Yoshida at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Villain by Shuichi Yoshida at


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