BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda, translated by Alison Watts [in Shelf Awareness]

Following the notable success of The Aosawa Murders, prolific, award-winning Japanese author Riku Onda reunites with translator Alison Watts for Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight, another riveting, tightly plotted psychological thriller. “This, I guess you could say,” the novel opens, “is the story of a photo.” That first paragraph continues to tease with mentions of mystery, death, “a certain man,” and the “break-up of a couple,” all details that will be scrutinized by two 20-somethings spending their last night together in an almost empty Tokyo apartment.

Aki and Hiro prepare for their final evening with food, drink, and overwhelming tension. Hiro plans to move in with another woman the next day; Aki is already packed for a visit to Vietnam. Their “honeymoon period” is long past, making “this last year … an endurance test.” What changed, they will at least agree, was what happened during a mountain hiking trip “and the death of that man.” Suspicions have since continued to build, both convinced that the other must have been the murderer, each determined to elicit a confession by morning.

Onda is an expertly sly storyteller, deft with digressions and diversions. Seemingly simple statements – “That’s a lie” – are hardly so straightforward and prove to be multi-layered clues to more intricate reveals. But neither of her protagonists is a particularly reliable narrator. Onda ingeniously manipulates captivated readers as she interrogates the instability of memories, how well we can ever really know one another, and the capricious nature of love – and revenge.

Discover: Japanese writer Riku Onda and translator Alison Watts return for a second collaboration, another deftly layered, enticingly manipulative psychological thriller.

Review: “Mystery & Thriller,” Shelf Awareness, July 29, 2022

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007 (Japan), 2022 (United States)


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