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Shadow Family

by Miyuki Miyabe

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15012182,011 (3.29)14
This compelling murder mystery focuses on the murky world of Internet chat rooms. Veteran Desk Sergeant Takegami finds himself in center stage of the investigations after his colleague is hospitalized.

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English (8)  Danish (3)  Spanish (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
It's hard to talk about a mystery, especially one as short as Shadow Family, without giving too much away. What I am comfortable saying is that the story is not exactly what I'd expected from the summary, but not in the way which makes me cringe and wonder if the blurb writer even read the same book. Rather, to have said too much would have dampened my enjoyment of the revelations made throughout the novel. The author slowly pulls back layer after layer of stories and role-play, to expose the truth of the murder. I could almost say that the entire novel is one long Parlor Scene during which the detective stands up and announces that the murderer is here in this very room and explains how he solved the mystery.

But even that would be inaccurate, as our detective, Desk Sergeant Takegami, is far too self-effacing to command the attention of a roomful of interested parties. He would, by his own account, feel much more comfortable pursuing paperwork than conducting interviews. The language itself is far more beautiful than I expect from literature of this genre, though I'm sure that's an unfair generalization. I loved the way characters' appearances were sketched in with a few clever turns of phrase and the beautiful use of metaphor and analogy, especially towards the very end.

Shadow Family is a good, fast read. My only trouble with it arose from the high number of unfamiliar family names which were introduced too quickly in the opening chapters for me for me to get a good handle on which name belonged to which character. A reader more versed in Japanese names would probably not have the same problem, and I could have made my own life easier by cribbing a character sheet to refer to until I had the names down. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
Una buena historia que pudo dar más de sí. Se ha quedado plana y confinada a un solo espacio y tiempo. ( )
  darioha | Mar 15, 2018 |
Shadow Family is a mystery story. Two people get murdered within a couple of days of each other, and seemingly unrelated. But thread from a striking blue parka left on both crime scenes soon prove to the police that things are more than meets the eye. Meeting dead end after dead end, one of the officers come up with a theory that could potentially make or break the mystery behind the curious deaths.

And it is here that the story finally starts to reveal itself.

One of the victims had, during the one year or so before his tragic death, been part of an online ‘family’. He called himself ‘Dad’, and his family consisted of ‘Mom’, ‘Minoru’, and ‘Kazumi’. A 4-member family. A typical family set-up, only that it was all virtual.

Upon finding out about this make-believe family, how does the real-life family respond? And how do these deaths reveal the truth behind all the pain, anger and loneliness?


Personally, I feel that the mystery in this plot is not at all strong. In fact, I felt like I already knew who the culprit was half-way through the book. However, I also feel that the redeeming point of this book is how the story unfolds. The mystery of the plot itself may not have been its strongest virtue, but certainly the way the characters were introduced, and how certain things were thrown into light just when you least expect it… These make the plot feel less significant.

We’re made to think, exactly why does a man with his own family go in search for a virtual family on the Internet? What drives a person to such measures? Then we are given a chance to see things from the wife’s perspective. How would one feel if her husband were to find another ‘wife’ on the Internet? Does one feel lonely? Does one feel like a failure?

How about the people with whom this man forms a ‘family’ with? Why does one choose to be the virtual daughter of a stranger?

On the face of it, this is a mystery story. But underlying this story is the undeniable search for connection. Under the surface of it all, is the question of how each different person reacts to a given set of circumstances. How does one overcome feelings of loneliness and desperation?

At the end of it all, when family ties start to tangle up into a big mess, or maybe fray away at the ends, what is it that holds the family unit together? ( )
1 vote mich_yms | Oct 22, 2009 |
It's a mystery set on the fringe of Tokyo. A father has a family and he has a cyber-family. He likes his cyber-family more than his real family. Someone gets killed. Someone gets accused. They talk a lot and then they figure out who did it. Not very mysterious. Kind of a let down. This book was recommended to me by a Japanese bookseller in Kyoto. Last time I seek his advice. ( )
1 vote Banoo | Jan 27, 2009 |
Ishizu returns!

In Miyabe's second English-translated police procedural (Crossfire being the first), we are reacquainted with Isizu Chikako, middle-aged policewoman. Demoted due to her "disobedience" in Crossfire, Ishizu now finds herself in the middle of a cat-and-mouse game involving two murders, a fictional family that exists solely online and a broken family falling apart offline.

For a short novel there's a relatively large cast of characters, and each is referred to by both family and first name. The police department members are also listed by rank, and a lot of names are multisyllabic and similar to one another, so a bit of memorization will be necessary. It's worth it. ( )
  JackFrost | Apr 9, 2008 |
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Role-playing: a method of learning in which real-life situations are acted out; by playing various imaginary roles, participants master techniques of problem-solving.
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A light rap sounded, and the meeting room door swung open. (Chapter 1)
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Originally published in Japan under the title R.P.G.
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This compelling murder mystery focuses on the murky world of Internet chat rooms. Veteran Desk Sergeant Takegami finds himself in center stage of the investigations after his colleague is hospitalized.

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