About Return to Hiroshima
1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis.
Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to Hiroshima, 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 are unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society.
- Purchase link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Return-Hiroshima-Bob-Van-Laerhoven-ebook/dp/B079NL7FNN
- Genre: Crime thriller
- Print length: 352 pages
- Suitable for young adults? No
- Trigger warnings: Graphic violence; distressing historical scenes including torture
- Amazon star rating: 5*
Praise for Return to Hiroshima:
MMM named Return to Hiroshima as ” one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018“
“Author Bob Van Laerhoven pulls together an outlandish ensemble cast of peculiar personalities; fierce, fragile individuals who claw their way under your skin. Their predicaments –and their potential to unleash chaos – drag you into the narrative’s darkening abyss.” — Murder Mayhem & MoreRating: 5 out of 5.
“Van Laerhoven’s mastery of his subject and his flawless maneuvering through Japan’s unique past make one forget the depth of his narrative. There are many layers to Return to Hiroshima, and Van Laerhoven’s gift is crafting many intriguing subplots to create an energetic whole. But ‘layered’ is not quite right. Like an iceberg, a predictable part of Japan is visible for anyone to see. But beneath the surface lies mortal danger. And Van Laerhoven bravely plumbs those depths, for what’s underneath is a separate universe. What’s unsaid. What’s unaccounted for. Secrets no one admits to. Furious, revengeful rages hide beneath cool facades. Unspoken but understood conspiracies feed quests to right ultimate wrongs”. Joseph Brewer, Amazon
“The farther and deeper you progress into this often disturbing and yet captivating tale, the more you will be rewarded as the different and complex strands eventually draw together. Be warned though, this is no easy story to read and one that demands the reader’s full attention and concentration. Nor as I’ve intimated is this a book for the faint-hearted or those who prefer neatly packaged happy endings or a book filled with easily identified characters you’re supposed to either like or hate. Nonetheless, a powerful and multilayered story for those willing to stray from the more conventional thriller style and setting.” Rudders Reviews
“What a fine book. .. I was fascinated, intrigued and puzzled all the way through what is a fairly hefty read. Nothing is predictable. The puzzles are clear, their answers apparently transparent but in fact often opaque. No character is exactly what they seem, and the ways the characters present themselves are written with a seriously sure hand. The historical events behind the story are generously under-dramatized, and the level of detail is very high indeed. A great book.” Frank Westworth, Amazon
About the Author:
Van Laerhoven is a 67-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.
In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’.
In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’.
His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong). The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors.
Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bob.vanlaerhoven
- Website: https://bobvanlaerhoven.be/en
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/bobvanlaerhoven
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bobvanlaerhoven/
Having recently read the memoir of a survivor of Hiroshima, I was “in the zone” and keen to read this book.
The story began slowly as the author introduced us to lots of characters, each with their own chapter and story. The transitions from one chapter to another were abrupt and choppy; this was a book that demanded concentration to keep up with the many characters and how they would eventually fit together. I did find it quite difficult to follow, but as the story developed and more was revealed about the characters it became almost compulsive reading to see what happened next. By the midpoint I was totally invested and intrigued. The author’s quirky style had won me over.
Without a shadow of a doubt I can say this story had a varied cast unlike any other book I’ve ever read ( to name but a few there was a Japanese “demon” figure (both masked and unmasked quite a terrifying character), a detective who is singled out for not being 100% Japanese, a fearsome German photographer with an eye for dark subject matter and ready to take risks for the right shot, a giant daughter figure with a dubious version of the truth, and her manga-influenced friend). Their back stories were detailed and complex, and – for me – a little too in-depth at times. Although I admired how the author tied together the past and the present, bringing the traumatic events of 1945 to life as he mingled the aftermath into the lives of his characters. I’ll be honest, though – with some characters I’m still not overly sure who to believe as many their stories contradicted each other and I couldn’t see the truth for the blurring of the lines. Definitely a story to keep you thinking!
There are some gory and violent scenes, and while these make for some uncomfortable reading, I’d consider these scenes pertinent to the overall tone of the story. I will admit that at times I didn’t understand all aspects of the plot, but the author’s intricate details kept me interested, and I rooted for Detective Takeda all the way. The twist at the end was dramatic and unexpected, yet also sublimely appropriate. This was certainly not a story where anything was predictable.
4 stars from me.