Penance by Kanae Minato
Published April 11th 2017 by Mulholland Books
Genre: Thriller, Iyamisu (loosely translated as “eww mystery”)
The tense, chilling story of four women haunted by a childhood trauma.
When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after the Emili’s body was discovered. Asako, Emily’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
Like Confessions, Kanae Minato’s award-winning, internationally bestselling debut, PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.
I read Confessions last year and it got me so shook that when Penance came out I decided to grab a copy right away. I also learned that it has a drama miniseries out called Shokuzai.
Like Confessions, it’s told from different POVs of major characters, and they all live in a rural town, a town known for having the cleanest air in Japan. This phrase is interestingly being repeated over and over, and is said in all of the POVs. The story shows us the lives of the four girls and Emily’s mother after Emily’s death.
Following Emily’s murder, the girls each go their separate ways growing up a la Pretty Little Liars. Emily’s family also decides to move back to Tokyo, but not before the mother deciding to see the girls one last time. Frustrated by their inability to help find the murderer, she curses the girls: find the murderer before the statute of limitations, or repent for the death of her daughter. As the statute of limitations draws nearer, we see how Emily’s death, as well as Asako’s curse affect their lives. Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka each struggle with their demons as they live to do their own repentance.
The story unfolds slowly, captivating you with Kanae Minato’s gripping writing style. I even found the first chapter a bit creepy, as Sae spoke of french dolls. I loved the twists and turns. It explores in depth the lives of the characters, the situations they deal with, even the unspeakable acts they commit.
While it didn’t have the same impact on me as Confessions, I still enjoyed reading this. It’s dark yet has an almost lyrical writing style. Kanae Minato is known as the queen of “Iyamisu”, which is loosely translated as “eww mystery”, a subgenre of mystery fiction that deals with the dark side of human nature. If you think this is a type of story that interests you then definitely go check it out.