An array of unique characters marked with personalities, pasts and each with his/her own way of dealing with life, Return to Hiroshima, set in Japan takes us back to remembering the atomic bomb dropped on that city and the consequences even now if a bomb were to be dropped there once again. What are the long-time effects of a nuclear bomb fallout? The year is 1995, a year that is odd and non-descript, where something happens that takes us back the what happened during WWII. A Japanese religious group unleased a sarin gas attack on Tokyo. Most of the action takes place in 1995, which keen Japan-watchers remember as the year when an obscure. Japan is an interesting country and the characters are unique unto themselves as we meet Mitsuko whose voice we hear from the beginning and whose father is a Yakuza lord. He created his half cult like empire and left Hashima. Not wanting to deal with his dictatorial manner and ways, she goes to Japan where her appearance she hopes won’t bring attention to herself. As a result of the radiation fall out, she has physical deformities that are quite pronounced. Pretending or stating that it her physical issues came from past relatives.
We meet a young girl that enters a medical facility thinking she is about to have a child and the startling revelations at the end of her visit make you wonder what comes next might be related to the incident. The doctor claimed she was never pregnant and imagined it, yet he put her under quite a while and the result leaves the reader wondering what is the truth?
.An interesting character that adds color to the plot is Inspector Takeda who is called to investigate a mutilate body of a newborn child found almost as if it were an offering on the Peace Monument in Hiroshima. His mother was raped in a Japanese POW camp and wants to fit into Japanese Society. Xavier Douterloigne is an interesting addition as we meet him with Yori the fiancé of Reizo a character riddled with drugs and whose actions prove dangerous to Xavier who is just hoping to comprehend his sister’s death and only wanted to keep her company. He is the son of a Belgian diplomat who resided most of his early life in Japan. Yori and Reizo are living in a so-called Suicide Club squat and when you hear his voice and listen to how he wants to create his novel you wonder just how sane he is. Then we meet Beate Becht and Mitsuko a photographer also part of the Suicide squat. Each character is self-absorbed with their own issues and the situation in this area is dangerous and can erupt at any time as there are others living there. Nationalists, terrorists and religious extremists are must some. The Japanese mafia is part of this plot which is called in Aum Shinrikyo. This plot is filled with historical facts both real and fiction, conspiracies and unique police action.
Throughout the novel each chapter focuses on one character whose voices are heard differently each time. The police inspector is an honorable man who only want to solve cases and when he realizes that the bank raid has more to do than just a simple raid, hiss boss puts him down. The mutilated child haunts him as the other cases including what happened to Xavier bringing Yuri and the photographer into light. Reizo was the one who poisoned him, and the author lets us hear Xavier’s voices when in a coma and then when searching for answers and finding them for his sister’s death. The truth is startling. Reiko claims to fake his insanity but in reality as we get to hear his voice and his movements we know that he takes drugs, they affect his thoughts and his hate for the overlord is apparent and kidnapping Mitsuko is a culmination his anger and defeat in some way.
How can these people live in fear of their own thoughts, remembering the destruction of the past and the ashes that you can smell even now? The author even includes through inspector information about the Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 conduction on prisoners of war. The horrors are real and what was inflicted on the people horrific. Hashima Island is the primary setting and as we hear the voice of Mitsuko, we learn about her father who fashions himself or calls himself Rokurobei the mafia boss and his treatment of her is tantamount to abusive and more. Mitsuko became so enthralled with this suicide group and forms a friendship with Yori and Reizo is her boyfriend and thinks he will write the greatest novel in the world but instead faces his own demons, blames his failings on her father and then takes her prisoner. As the inspector befriends the German photographer Beate Becht and Yori he enlists the help of the police doctor to check out something on one of the corpses that Beate photographed but the end result will shock readers as we get to know the hidden truths and lies behind the police corruption.
Characters that are so flawed that they don’t see their own strengths and good points. Each chapter is another voice and the author come back to each one at different intervals in the story.
The author takes us back in time to 1945 to the birth and the early life of this overlord and we get to understand and see why he felt so alone, tortured and the evilness inflicted on so many. The inspector learns more about the corruption related to the chief and his alliance with the Germans and the man everyone comes to fear as this same man takes the lives of those close to Takeda hoping to learn where Reizo took his daughter. We learn the hidden truths about Mitsuko or as her father relates them, the documents that she has proving her birthright that Yori stole from her and the truths behind who she really claims to be as her father claims that she is ill with a brain tumor and that she is delusional. As you read her words penned in her prison, you the reader will decide what is truth and what is deception. As Takeda finds the body of someone dear to him burned, Beate and the inspector must decide how and where to hide as the commandant might send others after him. The truth behind the bank raid and who initiated it and where the money was deposited is revealed and the final scenes in this book will haunt you and your visions forever.
Reading about the past and learning more about Prince Norikazu and his background, Unit 731 and the experiments and what was done to the patients we begin to see how it flows over in the present and is related to Mitsuko.
The ending is quite startling and the truths become more evident as the Lord of Lies tells his own child what she wants to hear and we feel the pain inflicted on so many that can reveal the truths behind the heritage and life of this man and that of Mitsuko’s father. Hearing his rendition of her life, learning what he perceived as the truth the hidden truths and lies become clear but where will she finally wind up and will anyone rescue her from her prison in the metro service tunnel? Some prisons are within the minds of a person as each character falls prey to their own fears and their own wants. One would soar greatly and become well renowned while others will take their guilt and use it for their own destruction. Author Bob Van Laerhoven takes us back to a time when so many were reminded of the past, the bombings and the sarin attack in 1995 as the timeline for the novel takes place within a few days but the final outcomes and the ending will let readers understand what happens when so many decided to Return to Hiroshima.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews