A sinister murder mystery that slowly reveals its paranormal secrets, set against the vivid backdrop of Japan.
Being a photographer at a Tokyo newspaper is no walk in the park—unless you’re Akio Tsukino and only get assigned to shoot parades and park festivals.
All that changes when a serial killer starts chopping off heads in nearby Kofu. Akio maneuvers his way onto the assignment in order to prove himself and get closer to enigmatic staff writer Masami Sato. When the investigation takes a supernatural turn, the unlikely partners find themselves caught between solving the mystery and saving their own lives.
In this thrilling and imaginative debut by Tristram Lowe, getting the story may cost them their heads.
I was given a copy of Headless by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
Headless started out your standard murder mystery but ended a distinctly creepy paranormal story. Though I am usually not a fan of contemporary stories turning paranormal, there was good balance between the two elements throughout the novel that allowed me to enjoy it.
I loved the setting of Headless. Most of the books I read are set in the US or a fantasy world, so it was refreshing to read a book set 100% in Japan. I felt like I got a really good sense of not only the individual places the characters visited, but of the culture.
The story was told in third person, alternating between Akio’s and Masami’s POVs. Akio’s POV told the bulk of the story. Both characters had strong voices and interesting personalities that brought the story to life.
Akio‘s character was interesting for me. He was young and awkward, with a clear idea in his head of who he “should be” without any hope of becoming that ideal. He could be annoying at times, but I was willing to forgive him because I understood where his character was coming from. His voice was clear throughout the novel, reflecting the growth Akio experienced.
Masami was my favorite character. She was the take-no-shit reporter who has a lot of hidden talents and absolutely no patience for Akio’s idiocy. Though we got to see a lot of her development and personality from Akio’s perspective, I loved the chapters told from her POV, and wished there were more of them.
Akio was slightly obsessed with Masami (trying to find the ice queen’s “human” side), while Masami had zero patience for Akio. The chemistry between them never developed, but I actually loved that. They were thrown together by circumstances and developed a working relationship, but they were never going to become best friends.
The mystery unfolded nicely, starting off simple and gaining complexity as it sucked me in. From the first chapter, the reader (if not the characters) has a sense of who the killer is, but as the story progressed, I found myself surprised by the details that fleshed out that initial idea. By the end of the book, I was engrossed with the mystery, loving the combination of supernatural and historical details.
The only problem of the book is the pacing. In the part of the book where the characters are still looking for “real world” explanations, the pacing dragged a little. However, about halfway through it picked up, and by the end, I was completely engrossed in the story. The transition from a normal murder mystery to a paranormal thriller felt natural, and helped grab my attention.
I would recommend Headless to anyone looking for a murder mystery with a supernatural twist and a unique setting. Though the book had undeniably dark and creepy moments, the humor helped balance it out. Ultimately I will remember it for the fascinating mystery and historical angle, not just the number of people who got beheaded.