Review based on ARC.
wow. I barely know where to begin. I can see why the book has won Japan's equivalent of the National Book Award and why it was made into a move (that I hope to see soon!!).
First. Get past the first 20 pages. Mystery readers who are used to the flash-intro may find this novel begins a bit slowly - starting with a "beginning" but not with some huge shock-and-awe scene. That, combined with the unfamiliar names, can make the book just a tad harder to access from the start. But, as I said, give it 20 pages. At page 18, I lost track of the page numbers and the previously unheard names (Ishigami was easy, but Yasuko versus Yukawa was a little trickier at first) were already familiar.
Second. I wouldn't actually call it a murder "mystery." Typically, that brings to mind a book in which the murderer and often the murder implement is unknown. In this book, you know from the beginning what has happened. Instead, I would categorize it as a cat-and-mouse intellectual thriller. Who will "win"? The brilliant guy on side A or the brilliant guy on side B?
On top of that, there aren't any "bad guys" to hate (aside from one, but he does not really bother us) ... and hardly a "good guy" to cheer. Instead, the characters are complex, realistic, vivid, and endearing.
I could not possibly divulge too much of a plot for fear of ruining what will be a thrilling ride for readers of this book. So instead, I say: read it. Give yourself enough time to get into the book; give yourself enough mental energy to wrap your head around the complexities of the narrative; give yourself a little space to process what happened once you are finished.
I would say the only "bad" thing about the novel is that there were just a couple little trips in the translation... but I was reading an advance readers' edition, so I imagine they are no longer present. In other words, absolutely excellent.
FIVE of five stars.