Thursday, January 22, 2015

To the Bottom of Yoshida's Villain!

It’s probably easier–to save any spoilers–if I just copied the back synopsis of Shuichi Yoshida's Villain here to give you an idea as to what the book is about.  As well as sprinkle your imagination.
"A woman is killed at a ghostly mountain pass in southern Japan and the local police quickly pinpoint a suspect.  But as the puzzle pieces of the crime slowly click into place, new questions arise.  Is a villain simply the person who commits a crime or are those who feel no remorse for malicious behavior just as guilty?  Moving from office parks and claustrophobic love hotels to desolate seaside towns and lighthouses, Shuichi Yoshida's dark thriller reveals the inner lives of men and women who have something to hide."
I decided to borrow the book’s synopsis to keep Villain’s plot as imprecise as possible. Why? Because while Villain’s unfolding events may seem apparent in the beginning, there are moments of both physiological and story progression that deters, squeezes, and red herrings you around the entanglements of the book. All of which may spoil the reading experience should I try to lay it all out in a summary. Nevertheless, to me Villain works in part like a character analysis, societal/cultural examination, noir thriller, and salacious love story. And while some of those elements may not seem to correspond properly with one another–or belong underneath the same listing–it’s kind of what I'm left with after reading the book.

Villain offers plenty; crammed together and, in my opinion, dark and elegantly deployed in the book’s storytelling.  It's a story that raises questions asking what sort of psychological disposition (if even able) causes an individual to tumble over the edge and into that of a murderer? What unawareness causes a person to fall as prey to a murderer? What causes a person to fall in love with a murderer? How does either of the two’s family respond, internalize and accept the falling of their loved one? How do outside players pushed into the fray deal with guilt and grief concerning their choices and lack thereof?  What are the choices given to all those involved, and what could amount to a better decision? How does cultural and societal pressure play a role?

And so much of this is presented without overthrowing the actual story itself.

So many questions with subjective answers consume you post-Villain. However, if not, you'll have at least enjoyed the shadowy ride with its troubled characters. And Villain is a ride that may, at times, feel bumpy from Yoshida’s multiple interlocking plots and sometimes non-chronological events. Also, the unexpected leaps from third-person to a reflective first-person narrative may ask you to step back for just a moment to gather exactly which character is providing his or her study of the surrounding events.

If you love Japanese crime and physiological thriller writers like Natsuo Kirino, Ryu Murakami and Miyuki Miyabe then you can't go too wrong with Yoshida’s Villain. As my first reading of him, I have to say that Villain contained all the elements and components I love in Japanese crime/psychological fiction.

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