Last Winter We Parted
by Fuminori Nakamura
Soho Press (October 21st 2014) Hardcover, 224 pages
“Most people are unaware of the true limits of their own brain. In reality, though, what would they do with that knowledge anyway?”
Fuminori Nakamura has delivered an edgy Crime Drama/Psychological Thriller filled with enough surprises to keep one guessing. The Pulp-Noir feel, coupled with the psychological extremes visited through the character’s flaws, offers an intense view into the lower depths of the human mind.
The nameless main character, a writer, is assigned to author a book about a semi-famous Japanese Photographer Yudai Kiharazaka, who is charged with burning two of his photo models to death. The writer interacts with a cast of characters who are all involved with the accused in some unsavory form or other. A mysterious sister, Akari, who has a history of destroying men’s souls, with two men having committed suicide. A butterfly collectors club, A group where members possess silicone likenesses (dolls) of dead loved-ones, and the artist who creates these lifelike mementos. The doll aspect of the story adds a freak factor that only enhances the general creepiness of the plot; there are lurid sexual situations, and moments of existential crisis throughout the story.
On the surface, Last Winter We Parted is a murder mystery that will keep you guessing at every turn, as it is never really clear who the victims and the criminals are, until the ending that you will not see coming. On a deeper level, Nakamura presents a dark and wonderful psychological mind-screw that forces the reader to question their own capacity for evil, and how far one will deviate in order to exact revenge. The subjects of love/hate, abandonment, obsession, revenge and sexual deviation are all touched upon in a manner that reminds me of Camus, or Kafka with a pinch of Dashiell Hammett. Recommended for fans of crime pulps, Freud, Jim Thompson, Albert Camus and Japanese Noir.
(4 out of 5)