12 May 2012

Now You're One of Us (Asa Nonami)

I realized, while writing up In the Woods, the peril of reviewing mysteries: for me, the effectiveness of these stories depends on their gradual, methodical nature. I.e., the (good) mystery is a mechanism, the function of which is unknown at first--my enjoyment comes during the process of watching smoothly fitted gears turn, sudden switches flip, hidden panels open . . . and finally feeling the pieces click into place. It's deeply satisfying to some piece of my problem-solving brain.

But since I want to preserve that experience for other readers, I end up having little to say. Premise. Other thing I liked. It's good! (Or, it's not.) And I suppose, if you know me, and/or trust my taste, that's enough. I'm not sure whether it's really reviewing.

So let's call this less a review than an endorsement, namely of Asa Nonami's supremely creepy tale of familial horror, Now You're One of Us. That wonderfully unsettling cover taunted me across the room for months back when our D&D nights took place at Vertical's offices--and this is a case wherein judging a book by its cover is a smart decision. That single personal hair on the soap perfectly encapsulates the domestic disquiet in the story of Noriko, who marries into the wealthy Shito family and moves into their compound, where four generations of just the nicest people live in perfect harmony.

Except, OK, maybe her sister-in-law is a little old to be bathing with her developmentally disabled teenage brother. And if Great-Granny can't walk, what was she doing in the hallway in the middle of the night? And why on earth are there hallucinogenic plants in the front garden?

At this point I run into the peril and have to say WHY INDEED? But I must say, despite the common trope of the bride surrounded by a new family who are not what they seem, Nonami's take is unique, especially the ending. And her sense of menace, aided by dispassionate and slowly paced prose, is top-notch. It's a fun, eerie little novel.

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