Wow, what a brilliant clever novel!
Yusako Hanaoka is a single mother of a teenage daughter Misato. She used to work as a hostess in a club, but now works in a lunch box shop. Her next-door neighbour, Ishigami, is a shy maths teacher. He was brilliant during university and had ambitions to continue a life of research, but entered teaching due to difficult family circumstances.
When Yusako’s ex-husband Togashi manages to track her down and starts to threaten her and her daughter, Yusako unintentionally kills Togashi. Ishigami, hearing the struggle from next-door, arrives and helps dispose of the body and cover up the crime. The cover-up that Ishigami comes up with could only be devised by a genius. Yusako and Misato will be safe as long as they follow Ishigami’s directions because not even they know exactly what he has done.
The lead detective on the case, Kusanagi, can find no problems with Yusako’s alibi but is suspicious. He discusses the case with his friend Manabu Yukawa (known as Detective Galileo) who happens to be a university colleague of Ishigami. Yukawa is delighted to find his old friend, but when they meet, he suspects that Ishigami is involved in the crime. He continues to work at the problem until he knows exactly what has happened. Meanwhile, Ishigami does something completely unexpected.
The plot of this story was incredibly clever. Over the course of the book I got to know and love each of the four main characters – Yusako, Ishigami, Kusanagi and Yukawa. I wasn’t sure any more if I wanted Yusako and Ishigami to get away with the crime or Kusanagi and Yukawa to solve it. The ending was absolutely devastating.
The Japanese atmosphere was very different from what I am used to and it also took a while to get used to the Japanese names. But the story was good enough to get past these issues.
Book Published 2005
Book Published in English 2011