Pushkin Vertigo | 4 August 2022 | 336 pgs
Translated from the Chinese by Michelle Deeter
To begin with, this book was surprisingly a good read despite the darkness surrounding it. Set in Ningbo, China, this story revolves around three children and how a chance incident set a chain of events that would alter their lives thereafter.
The book opens with Zhang Dongsheng bringing his in-laws to a sightseeing site where he pushes them off the mountain. His relationship with them has always been somewhat strained considering of the difference of their background. His marriage has also turned rocky due to accumulated negative emotions (and his wife as well) and his purpose of staying civil to his in-laws is because they're wealthy, until the idea of murder struck his mind. He thought he's got off scot-free, but little did he know that his actions have been caught on camera by a trio of friends who just happened to take pictures nearby.
14-year-old Zhu Chaoyang is a quiet boy and a whiz at math. Being the only son in a single parent family, he's grown up to be independent and sensible. An outcast in school, he's recently find some joy in his life after Ding Hao, a former schoolmate, reacquainted with him alongside with an orphaned girl, Pupu, whom Ding Hao knew from the same children's home. Both of them are runaways and Chaoyang allow them to stay with him since his mother's working place is far and she's rarely at home. Their simple life becomes complicated and harrowing after they witnessed a murder which they'd captured on camera. What follows is a no return path which no one, including the reader, would ever imagine until the finale that will lead you questioning the outcome.
This is a multilayered suspense that is best read without knowing too much from the beginning. My above summary only covers half of the story as so many things have changed and transpired after these characters meet and their exchanges develop to something dark and sinister. The prose was simple and read easily; and there's a good balance between the characters developments and the plot so it was a fast-paced read to me (This would definitely make a good fit for bookclubs and buddy read discussions.) Also, I always find pleasure in reading translated works not only for the diversity but also the exploration of new-to-me authors, which is the case for me with this book. I hope there'll be more translated works of this author in future.
Note: There's a TV series of this book and it has received rave reviews from audience in China and abroad as well.
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