Henshaw creates a world of psychological complexity and emotional subtlety in a story that moves from Paris to Japan and back again.
Auguste Jovert has been retired only a few months as inspector of police in Paris when he’s startled to receive a letter and photograph from his daughter, Mathilde, who only recently discovered her father’s identity. Thirty years earlier he’d worked in Algeria, where he met Mathilde’s mother. His immediate impulse is to crush the photograph and think it’s “too late,” and for a while, this particular mystery is put aside. Shortly thereafter, however, Jovert meets a neighbor, Tadashi Omura, a law professor at the Imperial University of Japan now living in Paris, who comes with his own cryptic issues about fathers and daughters. He spins a mesmerizing story about his relationship with Fumiko, whom he treats as a daughter though he claims she is not. In a series of detailed flashbacks he presents their relationship, on which one lie is piled onto another—for example, that Sachiko, Fumiko’s mother, died in childbirth. In the interstices of his long conversations with Omura, Jovert takes tentative steps to find Mathilde by using some of his contacts at police headquarters. Eventually the narrative of Omura’s past becomes ascendant and throws Jovert’s story into the background. We learn particularly lurid details about Omura’s friendship with Katsuo Ikeda, a brilliant student and friend of Omura’s, who becomes a writer and lives a profligate and amoral life, culminating in a murder. But with Omura, nothing is at it seems, and we find Ikeda’s life has also been constructed of elaborate fabrications.
Henshaw’s prose shimmers as his narrative becomes ever more nuanced, complex, and misleading.