Return to Hiroshima

Fiction - Mystery - Historical
350 Pages
Reviewed on 09/26/2020
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Author Biography

Bob Van Laerhoven is a 67-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literature and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, (Brazilian) Portuguese, and Russian. in Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the Flemish ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’. In 2007, he became the winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire's Revenge.’ The novel was published in 2014 in the USA and won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’. His collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, first published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. ‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018. The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More, reviewing more than 200 novels by international authors annually, chose ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. Also in 2018, his second collection of short stories “Heart Fever” came out in the USA. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian, Spanish, and German.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite

"At that moment, the moon breaks through the clouds and magnifies Rokurobei’s silhouette, standing at the handrail of the fortified wall. I freeze...Time skips a beat. Then I realize that the serpent’s neck is looking in the opposite direction; I sense he’s deep in thought, reflecting on who he once was and what he has become." In Return to Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven, several individuals wrestle with their reality, identity, past and uncertain future. They try to redeem themselves through their goals which are often muted by social norms with the memories of WWII revealing a horrifying secret that further exemplifies the monstrous side of humankind.

Bob Van Laerhoven weaves a complex and spine-chilling tale set in 1995 Hiroshima, where '90s Japan is burdened by economic recession but thrives with popular culture trends. The writing is sublime and the narrative is engaging, a commendable feat from Brian Doyle for translating Laerhoven’s work. The perspective of the story alternates between several characters such as the daughter who searches for the truth about her ‘demon’ father, a biracial inspector who’s passionate about murder cases, and a punk who's an eccentric ultranationalist, just to mention a few. Psychological insights of these characters’ thought processes and mental states easily flesh out their dynamics with one another. Each short chapter outlines aspects of their psyche, showing the complexities of reality in a bleak side of Japanese society. They seem unrelated at first until the plot converges, crossing each other’s paths until it leads to a surprising conclusion. Disturbing yet brilliant, Return to Hiroshima is a thought-provoking read.