Otsuichi is the pen name of Hirotaka Adachi. Goth won the 2003 Honkaku Mystery Award and it’s a good read, not fantastic, but good.

A notebook that leads to murder – a refrigerator filled with hands… a pit of dead dogs… an accidental suicide… a boy buried alive. Morino is the strangest girl in school – how could she not be, her obsession with brutal murders? And there are plenty of murders to grow obsessed with, as the town in which she lives is a magnet for serial killers. She and her schoolmates will go to any length to investigate the murders, even putting their own bodies on the line. And they don’t want to stop the killers – Morino and her friend simply want to understand them.

The writing isn’t top-notch but there is a rawness that I appreciate. This feels like the work of a new author with nothing to lose and he is willing to break any rules. There are 6 stories (plus a bonus story) and they are all subtly linked by location and themes. By themes I mean the fascination with death, suicide and killing. The horror is evident on every page but the horror doesn’t stem from the supernatural; it comes from the deep recesses of humanity’s dark side.

I enjoy the well-drawn characterizations. Their internal logic is sharply realized and I didn’t need to suspend my disbelief. The only logic I really needed to suspend is how could a small town contain so many killers, but that was easy because I love the characters and Otsuichi’s “devil may care” attitude. The narrative can change point of view on the fly, sometimes even within a story itself. But it is never confusing at all. There is also an investigative procedural thread running through all the stories that I enjoy tremendously. I also like that the murder-obsessed boy’s name is never revealed till the final story; a very interesting and calculated move.

Not all the stories worked well. A few fumbled trying to cross the finishing line. But the sum total of them is still remarkable. This is a very talented writer with a morbid fascination with death and all the demented inklings that go with it. Reading this feels like I was opening the Dark Side within me and I noticed I was swimming leisurely in a pool of red with a warm smile plastered across my face. Don’t flinch… we all have one.