Thursday, 15 December 2016
Nocturne of Remembrance by Shichiri Nakayama
Amongst some interesting novels recently published from Vertical Inc. comes Nocturne of Remembrance, translated by Paul Rubin, a subtly dense and solid novel that dispenses with the usual sequential narratives seen in most crime novels, although opening with a gruesome murder, which is reminiscent of a scenario from one of Otsuichi's novels, the narrative reverts to the more formulaic when the main murder of the novel occurs in the Tsuda family, the character initially bridging these two story lines is Mikoshiba, who in the first is the guilty party, but in the second has progressed to a lawyer of renown with slightly maverick tendencies who takes up the case, although a big mystery hangs over his motives for taking on the case as he stands not to profit greatly, perhaps it's for free publicity, purposively the enigma remains throughout the novel until it's final pages.
After the initial description of the murder, on the surface a simple case - Akiko confesses to murdering her husband, Shingo, in the shower, the novel is largely taken up in describing Mikoshiba's day to day, and exploring his reputation and standing within his profession, eventually we see him beginning to re-investigate the case which he is taking up after the previous defence it appears was lacklustre in it's efforts. The narrative of the novel begins to find it's footing and adopts a more familiar gear after a hundred pages or so when beginning to explore Shingo and Akiko's relationship and circumstance leading up to his murder, describing Shingo being laid off from his job and falling into debt after becoming a 'shut in' and dabbling with online investing. In turn Akiko becomes estranged from her husband and his abusive and violent behaviour and his unwillingness to improve his situation, she turns her affections to a male colleague at work, but is the depth of this relationship imaginary and exists purely in her head on her part?. Over a number of pages the reader becomes embroiled with the setting up of what appears to be an obvious motive on Akiko's part, through Mikoshiba's repeated musings aspects of the case are gone over and the portrait of a familial disintegration emerges, but perhaps motives are seen only in half light, Nakayama's control of the direction of his prose and of what we see is watertight.
Without wanting to include spoilers, the full progress of Nocturne of Remembrance is a difficult one to relate in it's entirety, it repulses and fascinates in equal measure but at it's end you have to admire Nakayama's ability at diverting your attention and of hiding, perhaps you could say burying the significant details that connects the various strands of this deftly constructed novel, the book does include one of the lead characters suffering a rare phobia - Aichmophobia, which stretches the boundaries of belief to a certain degree, but it's necessary, and before you know it you're reading a disturbing and bleak story of strange redemption stemming from a very dark starting point, where most of the participants shoulder various degrees and differing strains of guilt and which has journeyed, unflinchingly, through a whole trope of domestic dysfunction(s), Nakayama, it feels like is holding a mirror up to the darkest side of humanity.
Nocturne of Remembrance at Vertical Inc