Goenawan’s well-paced mystery follows ruminative Japanese graduate student Ren Ishida as he returns to the town where his sister was murdered. When Keiko Ishida was found dead in the small town Akakawa, she had sustained stab wounds, had tie marks on her wrists, and was lying alongside a bloody kitchen knife—but nothing was missing from her purse and there’s no known motive. She was also carrying a pack of birth control pills, though she’d been tight-lipped about her romantic life and never mentioned a boyfriend. Ren plans to stay just long enough to collect his sister’s belongings, but is drawn into the town’s morass when he temporarily takes over his sister’s old teaching post at a cram school and agrees to fill her room in a politician’s graveyard-quiet mansion (where he reads Rushdie to the politician’s silent wife, Ms. Katou, in exchange for lodging). As Ren becomes invested in Ms. Katou’s (and other townspeople’s) backstories, he’s also drawn into a beguiling friendship with one of his students—whom he nicknames “Seven Stars” for the brand of cigarettes she smokes—which gets increasingly thorny as he realizes she may be connected to his sister’s troubled past. Goenawan’s debut balances a finely wrought plot with patient, measured portraits of fragile relationships, making for a spare yet inviting novel that grabs hold and doesn’t let go. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/2018 Release date: 03/06/2018 Genre: Fiction
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