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DEVILS IN DAYLIGHT

Tanizaki laminates a murder mystery and psychological study onto a rumination about the nature of fiction itself.

In this newly translated novella, written in 1918 by early-20th-century Japanese literary master Tanizaki (Red Roofs and Other Stories, 2016, etc.), two friends go in search of a murder that may or may not be about to happen.

Narrator Takahashi receives a phone call one morning from his wealthy friend Sonomura inviting him to come watch a homicide in secret. Sonomura says he doesn’t know “who’s going to kill whom” or where the murder will take place but is certain it will happen “in a certain part of Tokyo” around 1 a.m. Although Takahashi thinks Sonomura may have slipped into insanity, he agrees to accompany him on his search for the murder out of a sense of responsibility as a friend. In describing how he has come to know a murder will be committed, Sonomura says he was at a movie theater when he witnessed a man and woman plotting behind another man’s back, using a cryptogram Sonomura deciphered using his knowledge of Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug,” in which characters use a similar code to find a lost treasure. After much searching, Takahashi goes home but Sonomura comes for him after midnight, sure he has figured out the crime’s location. Despite Takahashi’s claim not to take Sonomura seriously, his anticipation concerning what he may get to witness is palpable. Through knotholes in a storm shutter (“as if peering through the viewfinder of a movie camera,” the translator says in an afterword), the friends watch an erotic, violent scene that mesmerizes Takahashi. In the aftermath Takahashi, himself a novelist, struggles to distinguish fact from illusion. The novella is hauntingly Hitchcock-ian—although written before Hitchcock made films—but readers not fluent in Japanese may want to read the translator's afterword beforehand to appreciate Tanizaki’s use of Chinese characters and Japanese phrases to create puns and layers of meaning English-speaking readers might miss.

Tanizaki laminates a murder mystery and psychological study onto a rumination about the nature of fiction itself.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2491-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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