cover image Villain


Shuichi Yoshida, trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, Pantheon, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-37887-3

Yoshida examines the lives of a victim and a killer in this subtle but powerful novel about collective guilt and individual atonement, his first book to appear in English translation. The police arrest Yuichi Shimizu, a 27-year-old construction worker from Nagasaki, for strangling Yoshino Ishibashi, an insurance saleswoman, with whom he'd gone on a couple of dates. Moving skillfully back and forth from the crime to its aftermath, Yoshida describes Ishibashi's boring job in Fukuoka, her fantasy dates and online boyfriends, as well as Shimizu's existence in Nagasaki, where he cares for his ailing grandfather and grandmother, and lavishes his attentions on his fancy white car. Multiple points of view reveal both slight and dramatic changes in a host of other people, including acquaintances and relatives, affected by the murder. Most impressively, Yoshida's complex portrait of Japanese society leaves no doubt as to his characters' actions, but tantalizing doubts about their meaning. (Aug.)