Lately I've been on a psychological thriller kick; all I want to read are books which have deceptive, flawed characters and a suspenseful story hook -books which I can't put down. When I received Kanae Minato's Confessions as a gift a few months ago I found it fit this reading mood perfectly.
At the beginning of Confessions a middle school teacher addresses her class, explaining why she has chosen to leave her job. We quickly find out that she believes her four year old daughter has been murdered by two of the students in the class. Rather than reporting them to the police she informs them of the unique act of revenge she has decided to take against them. We follow the after-effects of this "confession" through the diaries and letters of those whose lives have been touched both by the original crime and the threat the teacher has made toward the young murderers.
The suspense of Confessions lies in discovering the motives of the two murderers; each chapter gives us a little piece of the dark story of how and why four year old Manami was killed. Along the way we encounter some disturbing twists involving bullying, parental failure, and child abuse which culminate in a distubing but narratively satisfying climax.
Confessions is Minato's first novel and was originally published in Japan in 2008 where it quickly became a best seller; it's often referred to in reviews as the "Gone Girl of Japan". Like Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, Confessions features alternating viewpoints, unreliable narrators, and themes of revenge.
Readers who enjoy psychological suspense set in Japan might want to try Out by Natsuo Kirino. For more thought provoking suspense about youth violence and bullying try Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin orAmber Dermont's The Starboard Sea.