Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

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Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: C E Stanway
Reviewed by C E Stanway
Summary: Compelling neo-noir novel following the life of Fumihiro Kuki, who was bred to be a 'cancer' and spread evil in the world.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 356 Date: June 2013
Publisher: SOHO PRESS
ISBN: 978-1616952129

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Evil and The Mask is the second novel by Fuminori Nakamura to be translated into English. While it fits comfortably in the neo-noir genre, it's anything but conventional in the genre.

The novel begins when the protagonist is only eleven years old, and spans the rest of his life, alternating between the past and the present in the first half of the novel, until we catch up with the present day. At the start young Fumihiro is summoned to the room of his elderly father, the present president of the Kuki Group of interlinked corporations across Japan. What transpires next is a monologue from Fumihiro's father, telling the boy he was bred to be a cancer on the world and spread unhappiness. Fumihiro's father ends with introducing Fumihiro to his new adopted sister, Kaori, and informing them both that when they turn fourteen Kaori will be an integral cog in the plan to break Fumihiro's spirit; to show him hell.

Evil and The Mask paints a picture of hard-boiled suspense, as Fumihiro battles against his own nature and his father's madcap machinations, replete with chain-smoking, whiskey on the rocks and beautiful broads who are nothing but bad news. However, Nakamura also combines the smoky noir atmosphere with a twist on the modern political thriller in the second half of the novel. The terrorist group JL, with shady affiliations to the Kuki Group, has been perpetrating acts against the people, including the murder of top government officials, but have gained public support (or at least notoriety) by killing them in the most absurd ways. Evil and The Mask is careful to tiptoe the line between realism and surrealism here, and edges just on the side of realism, giving the novel an even starker world view.

One thing I feel goes against the novel, is that in 355 pages, there are several monologues on various topics - beauty, economics, evil, humanity - that, considering the otherwise realistic portrayal of the events in the novel, come off feeling forced. However, I feel this is just a manifestation of the noir genre that doesn't particularly jell with the modern world, with all the conveniences of 140 character messages and 2 minute rice, and not a particular shortcoming of Nakamura's writing skills in itself. While the discourses may seem incongruous, they provide the novel with a thoughtful air many crime novels lack.

Overall, the translation was of a high quality in the un-copy-edited version I was sent to review. For me, Evil and the Mask was consistently gripping, without being over-ambitious by sacrificing the pacing on the behalf of fitting in too many characters or plot elements. I think the greatest asset Nakamura has is his ability to build up the atmosphere and tension in his masterful use (or retention of) details. As I found the book difficult to put down, I can recommend it highly for anyone who enjoys either crime fiction or political thrillers.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try The Thief, also by Nakamura.

Buy Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura at Amazon.com.


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