Mysterious Book Report Last Winter We Parted

Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura

SOHO Press, $25.00, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-455-0

If the novel in this weeks MBR could only be described in one word, the one that comes to mind is inscrutable. It is defined as mysterious, enigmatic or incomprehensible, and its synonyms include words such as: hidden, impenetrable, and blank. None of those adjectives however, will lessen your enjoyment of this short, but multi-layered and complex, murder mystery by one of Japan’s young, talented and award-winning crime fiction writers.

Last Winter We Parted, by Fuminori Nakamura begins with a young novelist being tasked by his editor with writing a book about a world-famous photographer who’s on death row and facing execution if his appeal is denied. He’s been convicted of burning two women to death. At first, the writer has no doubt about the condemned mans guilt—after all he had photographs of the victims as they were being immolated, didn’t he. But as the writer, who is never identified by name, continues to interview Kiharazaka, the photographer, he becomes convinced that not only is Kiharazaka guilty, he’s insane as well. The photographer tells the writer that he is trying to capture the true nature, the essence, of the murdered women—and the only possible way to do it—was by photographing them at the exact moment of their deaths, when their souls were exiting their bodies. The writer himself however, becomes unhinged by Kiharazaka’s narrative and constant contact. The writer interviews the condemned man’s sister, and starts having doubts about the photographer’s ability to commit the murders he’s been convicted of. As each layer of the mystery is uncovered however, no answers are found, only more questions that seem without solution, as new elements and characters appear until the story implodes into its startling, unexpected conclusion. If you’re a fan of the diabolic, seemingly impossible and locked room mysteries . . . you’ll love this short and intense new work of masterful misdirection, told with cut-to-the-bone lean prose.


John Dwaine McKenna