Penance was the perfect book for me at this moment in my life. I've grown impatient with the same old, same old, and this book was anything but that. Oddest of all is, I should have hated this book. It does three things that usually annoy the fuck out of me:
#1. It has something I call the "Vantage Point Plot", wherein one dramatic scene is told from a bunch of different viewpoints. That normally gets old real quick, but here it was fresh because every chapter showed you the aftereffects of each individual, and each aftereffect was drastically different. Some were creepy as balls, others were tense, some were sad, but every single one of them was interesting. Thank fuck for that miracle.
#2. This is basically a mosaic novel. I've not had great success with mosaic novels. If you don't know what one is, I'll give you a brief explanation. A mosaic novel is a series of vignettes or short stories that are connected by one central event or theme. Here it works because we're so close to each character. The detailed explanations of each character's life at the beginning of their chapters might bore some of you. They bored me a bit. But by the end of each chapter I saw just how needed all that information was. Be patient with this one. Each section pays off.
#3. First-person POVs from multiple characters. This is a style I can't fucking stand. It rarely works well, especially when each character is speaking to someone off screen, as it were, like in novels based on an interview structure, but here it fits perfectly. In fact, any book I read from here on out that has chapters from different first-person POVs will be stacked and judged against this novel. It was so well done. I was never confused as to who's head I was in because each and every person got their own quarantined section. Beautiful.
Finally, this was just an easy read. Something I didn't have to think too hard about, but not so simple that I thought the author was speaking down to me. The translation is terrific. I don't feel that anything was lost in translation. I can't say that for certain, seeing as I don't speak Japanese and have not read the original text, but usually you can sit back and say, "Something about that doesn't sound right."
In summation: I am happy as hell that I snagged this one off NetGalley in return for the review you just read. I'll likely buy this in hardcover or paperback or whichever format it comes out in upon release in the States. It's rare that I buy books I've received ARCs of, but this will more than likely be one of them... as long as it's decently priced. You never know with this translated novels, seeing as how they have to essentially pay two authors. If you like your mysteries built with abnormal frames, give this one a look-see.
Final Judgment: Some of everything and not a thing bad.