The Devil's Whisper Paperback – Jan 27 2010
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"Miyabe's forte is suspense. . . .[the] fascination of the story lies in its acute observations of the way masochistic shame and guilt play into the social conformity so inhibiting to the Japanese identity." --The New York Times Book Review"The Devil's Whisper is laden with brilliant plot twists throughout and explores culturally transcendent themes like betrayal, forgiveness and revenge. Mystery fans looking for something a little exotic should check it out." --The Chicago Tribune"Miyabe excels at creating a supernatural feeling in a prosaic urban setting... Both horror fans and mystery fans will savor this spooky mystery and want to seek out Miyabe's other work." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)"A good selection for mystery collections." --Library Journal"The Devil's Whisper is clever and compelling, with twists and turns aplenty to keep the pages turning." --Jeff Abbott, author of Collision and Trust Me
About the Author
Best-selling author MIYUKI MIYABE has written more than 40 novels, including three previous works in English translation published by Kodansha InternationalAll She Was Worth, Shadow Family, and Crossfireand the forthcoming hardcover, Sleeping Dragon (April 2010). Among her many awards is Japans top honor for popular literature, the Naoki Prize. Her books have been translated into over 15 languages. She is also the author of the young adult novel Brave Story, which won ALAs Batchelder Award.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While attempting to prove his uncle's innocence he comes across some information about the young woman which is not very flattering. Evidently she and other young ladies would pretend to fall in love with lonely men and scam them of their money. It just so happens there were 4 of these young women and 3 of them are dead by the time Mamoru investigates. He is torn with what to do with the information as he knows this will only further devastate the family of the young woman run over by his uncle, yet he must get his uncle out of jail. About this time a powerful businessman comes forward as a witness and states the light was green and the girl came out of nowhere, thus setting Mamoru's uncle free. This stranger adds another layer of deception to the story.
Meanwhile Mamoru is determined the save the 4th woman's life and thus sets out to find her. He does rescue her at the last minute but then the killer contacts him. He finally meets the killer and it is not at all what one would expect. The same unexpectedness comes from the powerful businessman as well. I won't tell you the details here so you can read for yourself. But this was a beautifully written book with some brilliant plot twists and some very unique characters. Read it for yourself and find out.
That said, unlike Shadow Family, Devil's Whisper does have a main character who gets developed as the story goes on. Mamoru is a 16 year old boy who has a slightly "dirty" past regarding his parents and where he came from. Despite all the pain he went through as a child, he grew up as a fine boy and has a strong character. When a girl got killed by his Taxi-driver Uncle (whom he lives with along with his Aunt and cousin after his mother's death), he decided to help his Uncle by researching into the girl who died. What he found out was more than just what happened with the girl who died, or her past, but also what happened in his own past.
Weirdly enough, despite Mamoru being a well fleshed out character, I find myself unable to truly connect with him. Even now after reading the novel and finding out the truth, I find myself unable to accept or sometimes even understand the choices he made. Maybe it's something that's lost in translation, but Mamoru also came across as someone without emotion, except a bit of anger, and a lot of fear at one point in the novel. What I received from him was slightly more on the "depressing" side, which perhaps is what made it very difficult for me to connect with him. So oddly enough, rather than connecting with him as a "friend" or "another side of me" (which is what books usually try to do, in order to pull in the viewer), I find myself feeling like his "older sister," wanting to reprimand him on some of his decisions, and feeling perplexed as to the choices he made. But again, maybe this is something that was just lost in translation.
The resolution is also a bit on the unconventional side of mystery. I don't want to give anything away, but I do suggest the reader to view with open mind and give the book a chance, and make your decisions at the end after everything's said and done. At the very least, the first 3/4th of the book was extremely enjoyable, with the last 1/4th of the book slightly on the unconventional but still interesting side.
The narrative starts with the shocking deaths of three beautiful young women - two suicides and an accident. While the suicides take place in front of witnesses, the accident victim is struck down by a taxi driver late at night on a deserted street.
It seems that accidents are taken very seriously in Japan. Drivers who hit pedestrians are expected to apologize and recompense the family. They may be jailed and fined. In this case, the driver had a green light, and the young woman ran in front of his taxi as if being chased by the devil. But he can't prove his innocence. He's held in jail.
The protagonist of the novel is his nephew, sixteen-year-old Mamoru Kusaka. Mamoru lives with his uncle's family because his mother died and his father disappeared after embezzling five million yen.
This brings up another interesting revelation about life in Japan. The families of criminals are often quite unfairly ostracized. Mamoru is tormented at school, and he and his mother are shunned by their neighbors.
Mamoru, however, is honest, compassionate, courageous and resourceful. And he has a superpower. As a young kid he was befriended by a retired locksmith, who taught him how to pick locks.
When circumstances lead Mamoru into the heart of the mystery of the three dead women, his lock picking skills come in handy. He can go where others can't to investigate. The plot is full of surprises, with a wonderfully twisted villain and plenty of social evils for Mamoru to wrestle with.
What I especially liked about All She's Worth was that it was a mystery in which the focus was on domestic life and how people -- whose notions of family life were radically unlike my own -- attempted to grapple with crime affecting those they cared about. The plot likewise was intriguing and unfamiliar. The novel did these things while also giving a snapshot of a society in transition, one that would be educational even to its intended Japanese audience. (Novels with didactic goals so often become tedious.)
The Devil's Whisper is in that vein but much less successful. Mysteries often seem plagued by predictability, deus ex machina and coincidences (and other improbabilities). The Devil's Whispers succumbs to all of them to varying degrees. I hate spoilers but I can give one that's so obvious and so near the beginning that I don't think it'll do any harm. One of the main characters is a teenage boy who -- what are the odds? -- has learned lockpicking. The explanation for how he's acquired these skills involves a character that doesn't fit in and doesn't seem to have much motivation. You know, however, before the novel is over that he's going to put these skills to use.
I feel, however, that I have the same reaction as other three-star reviewers: yes, this novel is blatantly flawed, yet I wouldn't hesitate to read another novel by this author. There's something enormously pleasurable about her quick light prose, and she's so good at telling details. Her characters are utterly alien -- their notion of shame is so odd -- yet they're also quite familiar (e.g., discussing Western novels and books that I was exposed to growing up myself).