Return to Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven #BookReview #CrimeWavePress #HenryRoiPR #4*

1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis.

Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to Hiroshima, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister.

Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima’s war history.

A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane.

And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will “overturn Japan’s foundations”….

Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel.

Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII are unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society.

Most Definitely A Tale from the Darker Side!

Definitely one from the darker side of Japanese life.

Set in Japan 1995, where an economic crisis is rocking the country. Xavier returns to the country where he spent his youth hoping it will help him get over his sister’s death. Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby at the foot of the Peace Monument whilst a gang-lord defends his criminal empire against his daughter who he thinks is insane. Added into this is an author who is busy creating a novel which he’s sure will overturn the very foundations of Japan.

Having Japanese family, I’m generally very ‘into’ books set there; one of the highlights is learning more about the culture than I already know. Now, there’s no denying that this is an expertly written book full of wonderfully descriptive phrases but, for me, it’s just a bit too dark. I tend to gloss over the more brutal sections in most novels, not just this one. I’m sure other readers will be absolutely fascinated by this tale and quite into it, but it really wasn’t one for me. However, I can appreciate the quality of the writing and am happy to give this 4*.

My thanks to Henry Roi PR for forwarding my copy of this novel; this is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.

Tags: crime thriller

Author Bio

Bob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, a region in Flanders (Belgium),bordering to The Netherlands, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. A number of his stories were published in English, French, German, Spanish and Slovenian.

DEBUT

Van Laerhoven made his debut as a novelist in 1985 with “Nachtspel – Night Game.” He quickly became known for his ‘un-Flemish’ style: he writes colourful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. His style slowly evolved in his later novels to embrace more personal themes while continuing to branch out into the world at large. International flair has become his trademark.

AVID TRAVELLER

Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2004. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Mozambique, Burundi, Lebanon, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.

MASS MURDERS

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: “Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder.” The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

MULTIFACETED OEUVRE

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, theatre pieces, biographies, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author: in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best crime-novel of the year with “De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.” “Baudelaire’s Revenge” has been published in the USA, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium. Russian and Italian translations are in the making. In 2014, a second French translation of one of his titles has been published in France and Canada. “Le Mensonge d’Alejandro” is set in a fictitious South-American dictatorship in the eighties. The “junta” in this novel is a symbol for the murderous dictatorships in South-America (Chile and Argentine, to mention two)during the seventies and beginning of the eighties. In The Netherlands and Belgium, his new novel “De schaduw van de Mol” (The Shadow Of The Mole) will be published in November this year. The novel is set in the Argonne-region of France in 1916. An English translation of the novel will be available in the US in 2016.
“Baudelaire’s Revenge” is the winner of the USA BEST BOOK AWARDS 2014 in the category Fiction: mystery/suspense.
In April 2015 The Anaphora Literary Press published the collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions” in the US, Australia, the UK, and Canada in paperback and e-book.

Social Media

Twitter: @bobvanlaerhoven

Instagram: @bobvanlaerhoven

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