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September 6, 2010 7:02 am
Villain, by Shuichi Yoshida, translated by Philip Gabriel, Harvill Secker RRP£12.99, 304 pages
Well-known in his home country, Shuichi Yoshida makes his English-language debut with this impressive novel, using the form of a police procedural to explore how identity is constructed in the internet age.
An insurance clerk on the southern island of Kysuhu, Yoshin Ishibashi boasts to her gaggle of girlfriends about her handsome new lover. In reality, she meets men on the web and has sex for money. When her body is found beneath a cliff in a ghost-ridden mountain pass, suspicion falls on two men, the supposed boyfriend, and one of her online partners, a truck-driving loner.
Told from multiple viewpoints, Villain is less interested in who done it than in how its characters manage to play the multiple, often contradictory, roles demanded of them, caught as they are between technology and tradition. A gripping psychological thriller which shows a very different Japan from the neon-lit Tokyo we are more used to.
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