The stunning, prize-winning first mystery from the author of When Nights Were Cold
Set in Japan, The Earthquake Bird begins with an earth-tremor on its first page that echoes metaphorically through the book. Lucy is a young and insecure translator straining to survive in the bustling, impersonal city of Tokyo. She becomes the principal suspect in a murder case when her best friend Lily is killed. Initially, her dealings with the police present her as vulnerable and ill at ease (she has a quirky way of talking about herself in the third person), but revelations about her past begin to pull the metaphorical rug from beneath the reader's feet.
Jones' publishers invoke Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory in promoting the book, and the comparisons are not far-fetched. Like Banks' disturbing novel, the revelations here really do take the breath away. But there's more on offer than complex storytelling. Principally, this is a study of the mysteries of human character, and the ambiguity with which Lucy is presented has all of the skill that distinguished the brilliant novels of Iris Murdoch. Tokyo, too, is evoked with intriguing detail--the perfect backdrop for the steadily unfolding narrative:
The killer had a street stand selling noodles. He also had a dead body to dispose of. In order to avoid the fingerprint problem he had hacked off the corpse's hands. He then proceeded to boil the outer layers of skin off the hands by dropping them into the hot noodle broth, on the street, under the unknowing eyes of his hungry customers.--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
We know that something terrible has happened and Lucy is the prime suspect. As she tells her story, more and more details come to light about Lucy, her friends Lily and Teiji, and the reasons why she emigrated to Japan ten years previously. We are taken back to Lucy's solitary childhood in Yorkshire and events of her old life that still haunt her. Not everything about Lucy Fly is what it seems, I found myself hating her and loving her with the turn of each page!
Susanna Jones' prose has a refreshingly urgent pace, and child-like clarity. At the end, the reader is left feeling like they have been given a guided tour of Tokyo; of its language, noodle bars, tower blocks and transport system.
The Earthquake Bird is relatively short, but narrated in exquisite detail without a superfluous word, reminiscent of Barbara Vine at her darkest.
I found myself reading 'just one more chapter' until I had reached its thrilling climax in one sitting. A must read for anyone with an interest in Japanese culture or the complexities of the human mind. Superb!
Given how complex the story is I found it easy to read, probably because it's so neatly written and brilliantly plotted.
The central character Lucy Fly is a strange fish, the type you're glad is tucked up in the pages so you can get to know her without having to meet.
Since reading it I've also bought it as a birthday present and lent my copy to a mate straight away - what more recommendation can I give? I think I'll be telling people about this book for months to come.
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