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The Watanabe Name - Book Review

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The Watanabe Name

Author: Sakura Nobeyama
Genre: Fiction - Historical
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: July 18, 2019
ISBN-10: 1684332908
ISBN-13: 9781684332908

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Book Review of :  The Watanabe Name



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Ever wonder about the reputation of a family’s name? The Watanabe Name, by Sakura Nobeyama is a fascinating historical fiction with mystery and suspense, intriguing characters and complicated family dynamics. The setting for this novel is in Japan. The author’s Japanese background and her education in English literature and history provide her the tools to be an excellent storyteller.

The novel opens with a short prologue, set in 2002 that introduces 80-year-old Kenji Watanabe. The reader is immediately intrigued by a 35-year-old unsolved murder and Kenji’s strange desire to “find a way to sneak away and, somehow die.”

Kenji’s character is that of a wealthy business tycoon, whose business office is on Tokyo Ginza, “home to some of the most exorbitant rates per square meter on the planet.” Kenji stops at a market to buy a pack of Lucky Strikes, tears off the wrapper and tosses a cigarette into the air catching it in his mouth like a kid catching popcorn. Smoking is fun, and he pops open a Zippo lighter by brushing it down one thigh, reversing to strike the flint and light the cigarette. It looks cool. He realizes he is hopelessly spoiled. His dysfunctional family’s dynamics reflect the Japanese culture with unexpected plot twists.

Threatening letters, scandal and intrigue lead to the unsolved murder of Kenji’s father. General Watanabe had not been a large man, but his presence in a room was impressive and formidable. He had spoken to everyone as an adversary, in their face. His white hair had been military cut, his head high, his voice booming. He was most intimidating, “even while sitting cross-legged and speaking with his grandchildren.”

Police Chief Miyabe tried to deduce who was the perpetrator, who had the opportunity, and who would gain the most. Is inheritance a motive? What does the old man’s will really mean? The General had money and had used it to control his family. The reader is reminded of Hasbro’s classic mystery board game, Clue.

The investigation of the family sets the stage for Kenji’s flashback to the early 1940s. During WWII, Second Lieutenant Kenji Watanabe was serving in the Japanese army in Manchuria, China. His role as the son of the elite General Watanabe is vague as wealthy sons were kept out of harm’s way. His loyalties lie with Japan but are tested by the atrocities he witnesses. The quick-paced plot becomes more engrossing and intense as his core values are threatened.

Kenji’s involvement in the fascinating story of refugee children is enhanced by multiple points of view. Secrets and lies provide “red herrings” for the reader.

The difficulty of relating Japanese culture in modern English is handled superbly. The author’s knowledge of Japanese culture and history are evident in her elaborately constructed plot and characterization. She has successfully created an American style mystery, a who-done-it, set in Japan.

 


Reviewed by: Carol

About Sakura Nobeyama


Sakura Nobeyama is a student in the mountains of Japan. She studies English literature and history and enjoys horseback riding, mountain climbing, reading, and classical music. 





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