cover image SHADOW FAMILY


Miyuki Miyabe, , trans. from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter. . Kodansha, $22.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-4-7700-3002-3

What starts as a dry police procedural intensifies into an Agatha Christie–style closed-room puzzle in this intriguing look at contemporary Japanese family life from Miyabe (All She Was Worth ). Sergeant Takegami, an accomplished desk jockey, winds up taking an active role in investigating two separate murders, one of a bland company man, Ryosuke Tokoroda, and the other of a woman who proves to be the first victim's college-age girlfriend. Takegami learns that Tokoroda participated in Internet chat rooms and established a cyber "family" where he played the "Dad." The faux family, which included a wife, a son and a daughter, seemed to be an idealized unit, supportive and loving. This paternal perfection contrasted to the frosty relations Tokoroda had with his actual wife and daughter. Tokoroda's history of extramarital affairs complicates the inquiry, as do reports of a stalker plaguing his real-life daughter. Miyabe expertly manipulates mood and pace as the action builds to a house-of-mirrors-like interview that slowly reveals the killer's surprising identity. The clean, crisp translation is the perfect vehicle for this satisfying read. (Feb. 1)

FYI: The prolific author has won many honors, including the Naoki Prize, Japan's most prestigious award for popular literature.