Djinnjer's Reviews > Shadow Family

Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe
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's review
May 19, 11

bookshelves: sisterslibrary, mystery, japanese, translated, reviewed
Read in January, 2006

It's hard to talk about a mystery, especially one as short as Shadow Family, without giving too much away. What I am comfortable saying is that the story is not exactly what I'd expected from the summary, but not in the way which makes me cringe and wonder if the blurb writer even read the same book. Rather, to have said too much would have dampened my enjoyment of the revelations made throughout the novel. The author slowly pulls back layer after layer of stories and role-play, to expose the truth of the murder. I could almost say that the entire novel is one long Parlor Scene during which the detective stands up and announces that the murderer is here in this very room and explains how he solved the mystery.

But even that would be inaccurate, as our detective, Desk Sergeant Takegami, is far too self-effacing to command the attention of a roomful of interested parties. He would, by his own account, feel much more comfortable pursuing paperwork than conducting interviews. The language itself is far more beautiful than I expect from literature of this genre, though I'm sure that's an unfair generalization. I loved the way characters' appearances were sketched in with a few clever turns of phrase and the beautiful use of metaphor and analogy, especially towards the very end.

Shadow Family is a good, fast read. My only trouble with it arose from the high number of unfamiliar family names which were introduced too quickly in the opening chapters for me for me to get a good handle on which name belonged to which character. A reader more versed in Japanese names would probably not have the same problem, and I could have made my own life easier by cribbing a character sheet to refer to until I had the names down.
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