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Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura
Review by Steve Sawicki
Soho Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616952129
Date: 11 June 2013 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When Fumihiro Kuki is just eleven years old, his elderly father calls him into the study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a family tradition that the patriarch fathers one child who will dedicate their life to causing misery in the world.

Fumihiro will be specially educated, and tortured, so that he can create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world as a single person is capable of. Part of this education is the total breaking of the spirit and when this training begins Fumihiro is faced with making a decision. Can he muster the fortitude to kill his father before the first part of the training, which would involve the brutal gang rape and killing of a girl Fumihiro has fallen in love with, begins.

Fumihiro does manage to kill the old man but is never sure whether that was part of the training or not. As he grows older he finds himself creating havoc and getting involved with his other siblings as well as a cousin who was also raised to be a cancer on the world. Before it is all finished Fumihiro will find himself an entirely different man and will have to figure out how to outwit the lone detective who seems aware of who Fumihiro is and what he has become.

This book has layers and layers of meaning and plot and some intriguing characters. While it is, indeed, a murder mystery it is told from the point of view of the criminal. In fact we see the detective in charge, the one who is telling the story, so rarely that it is easy to forget he is there at all. And this is foreshadowed in the first two pages so it should be no surprise to anyone.

This is certainly an interesting book. First there are the cultural differences inherent in an author writing in a language he was not born to. Second there is the unusual framing of the novel which creates an unusual perspective. And, third, there is the subject matter, the fact that this Fumihiro Kuki was bred to be a monster. Whether or not he is will be left to the reader to decide.

There is both retribution and redemption between these pages. If you are looking for an interesting and unusual book with a fascinating set of characters and plot then I can think of no better candidate. Wonderfully written and a page turner.

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