Book Review: Penance

PENANCE | Kanae Minato
04.11.2017 | Mulholland Books
Rating: 5/5 stars


Five friends went to play outside of their school one holiday weekend. Only four went home. Sae, Maki, Akiko, Yuko, and Emily gathered to pass around a volleyball and escape the chaos of having family at their homes for a traditional Japanese holiday. While the girls are playing a stranger comes up to them and Emily is lured away from the group under the guise of helping him with something and the thought of an ice cream reward for the entire group. The four girls soon realize that Emily has been gone for too long and go to look for her. What they find is her murdered body hours later.

Nowadays elementary school pupils would have been on their guard in a situation like this. Schools are not necessarily seen as safe places. If we had been aware of that, I wonder if we would have avoided what happened. Maybe we should have been taught to scream and run away if a stranger talked to us?

Murder and death are something that can haunt anyone, but being the sole eye witnesses to find Emily’s killer is too much for these four friends. None of the girls can remember what the stranger looks like and the police have no leads. Emily’s mother can’t seem to fathom the impossibility of this tragic turn of events and curses the girls, making a promise that they will pay for her daughter’s death. Now that the fifteen year statute of limitations is creeping up the guilt of Emily’s death may have become too much for these women. What has happened to them over the year? Is it too late to finally catch a murderer?

I will never forgive you, unless you find the murderer before the statute of limitations is up. If you can’t do that, then atone for what you’ve done, in a way I’ll accept. If you don’t do either one, I’m telling you here and now – I will have revenge on each and every one of you. 

PENANCE is my first experience reading a work of Japanese crime fiction and I could not be happier to have started here! Kanae Minato is an absolute mastermind! The first chapter of PENANCE reeled me in, hook, line, and what the heck just happened?! Minato has an incredibly unique ability to causally drop a massive plot twist bomb on the reader and then just keep on moving with the story. Her writing is absolutely seamless and incredibly addictive. Once I learned the structure of this novel, I felt like I could almost predict what would happen to the women. Wrong. While I understood the general premise of what their penance would be, I never succeeded in knowing the grand reveal before it happened. I can not give this book enough praise and have already snuck Minato’s other novel, CONFESSIONS, in to my Amazon cart to read later this year!

A special shoutout to the fabulous Criminally Good Book Club over on Instagram for another fantastic pick!

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