1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis. Fate brings a number of people together in Hiroshima in a confrontation with dramatic consequences. Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to the city, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister. Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima’s war history. A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane. And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will “overturn Japan’s foundations”….
Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel. Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII become unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and the Japanese society as a whole.
Is it possible to be completely unsure if you liked a book and yet still know the book was extraordinary? Of course it is. I'm still pondering Catch-22 almost 20 years after I read it obsessively and then laid awake wondering if I loved or hated it. (Spoiler: still not sure.)
I do know this about Return to Hiroshima - it's extraordinary. The characters are deeply real, the setting is palpable, and the mystery remarkably convoluted. Each detail provokes deep sentiment (rarely pleasant). It has all the intrigue of Tom Clancy with the emotional landscape of Anthony Doerr. The novel is hard to read even while compelling you to devour every word.
I needed more time than I had to wade through the complexities of the story and the history. There are nuances here that I probably won't suss out until I've read it at least once more.
Author Bio –
A fulltime Belgian/Flemish author, Laerhoven published more than 35 books in Holland and Belgium. Some of his literary work is published in French, English, German, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, and Russian. Three time finalist of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year with the novels “Djinn”, “The Finger of God,” and “Return to Hiroshima”; Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for “Baudelaire's Revenge,” which also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category "mystery/suspense".
His collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions,” first published by The Anaphora Literary Press in the USA in 2015, was hailed as "best short story collection of 2015" by the San Diego Book Review. The collection is translated in Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. “Retour à Hiroshima”, the French translation of “Return to Hiroshima,” is recently finished. In 2018, The Anaphora Literary Press published “Heart Fever”, a second collection of short stories. Heart Fever, written in English by the author, is a finalist in the Silver Falchion 2018 Award in the category “short stories collections”. Laerhoven is the only non-American finalist of the Awards.
Social Media Links –
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G89ns-UgCzk
www.bobvanlaerhoven.com (Russian website for Месть Бодлера, the Russian edition of Baudelaire’s Revenge)
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