Return to Hiroshima is a gripping read by Bob Van Laerhoven. I fell in love with this novel from the first page. I couldn’t put it down, and I read it through in 2 days.
- Title: Return to Hiroshima
- Author: Bob Van Laerhoven
- Publisher: Crime Wave Press on March 26, 2018
- Genre: Noir Fiction
- Pages: 352
- Format: eARC
- Rating: 5/5
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.
My Review of Return to Hiroshima:
I am at a loss about how to explain this book. There are several storylines all woven together to tell one larger story. For a long while, I had no idea how any of the separate accounts fit together, but it became more apparent as I read on.
Let’s start with what I loved the most about the tome. Mr. Van Laerhoven separates each “chapter” into a separate entry where descriptions of which character(s) are taking part, as well as their location and the date. In this way, it was more like the introduction to each act of a play. I found this helpful and wish other writers would use this tactic in their novels.
However, I must admit that this is one of the most confusing books I have ever read. But I loved it all the same. The confusion is necessary for a novel this gritty.
The author leaves bits of doubt in your mind as you go through. I still have no idea who was telling the truth.
My mind exploded, and I am excited to reread it later to see what I may have missed through the first reading. The Easter eggs will be welcome after this first read-through.
My knowledge of Japan after WWII through the ’90s is slim, at best. Though, I honestly couldn’t tell you much about Japan at all. I have never read a war novel through the eyes of the Japanese, and it was refreshing to have this new perspective. This new perspective is why I read, and especially read things that are foreign to me so I can learn more about the world around me.
I am thrilled to award Return to Hiroshima a full 5 out of 5 stars. Thank you, Mr. Van Laerhoven, for keeping me on my toes and also for giving me so much to go over in my mind. Pick this book up today. There is a discounted price through the end of the tour, and I hope you will love it as much as I do.
If you do read it, please leave me a comment here so we can discuss it. I would love nothing better.
Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours, Henry Roi, and Bob Van Laerhoven for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Bob Van Laerhoven Bio:
Bob Van Laerhoven is a 66-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, and Russian. A Chinese translation is currently in production.
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.