The Earthquake Bird is Susanna Jones's stunning, prize-winning first mystery - now a major motion picture starring Alicia Vikander.
Winner of the CWA New Blood Dagger for Best Debut Crime Novel of the Year
Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize
Early this morning, several hours before my arrest, I was woken by an earth tremor. I mention the incident not to suggest that there was a connection. . . for in Tokyo we have a quake like this every month. I am simply relating the sequence of events as it happened. It has been an unusual day and I would hate to forget anything . . .
So begins The Earthquake Bird, a haunting novel set in Japan which reveals a murder on its first page and takes its readers into the mind of the chief suspect, Lucy Fly – a young, vulnerable English girl living and working in Tokyo as a translator. As Lucy is interrogated by the police she reveals her past to the reader, and it is a past which is dangerously ambiguous and compromising . . .
Why did Lucy leave England for the foreign anonymity of Japan ten years before, and what exactly prompted her to sever all links with her family back home? She was the last person to see the murdered girl alive, so why is she not more forthcoming about the circumstances of their last meeting? As Lucy’s story unfolds, it emerges that secrets, both past and present, obsess her waking life . . .
"If Lily had never met me she would be alive now," says Lucy Fly, the narrator of Jones's intriguing debut. She is being interrogated by Tokyo police for her friend Lily's murder. Making matters worse, Lucy's lover, Teiji, has also gone missing. Ten years ago, Lucy left behind an unhappy life in Yorkshire, England, to lose herself in the exotic, anonymous bustle of a faraway city. Now in her 30s, she is content with her job as a translator and her otherwise Spartan existence, fixating on Teiji, a photographer and loner rather like herself. Then she meets Lily, who also comes from Yorkshire and is on the lam from her stalker boyfriend. At first Lucy resents this reminder of her past, but she soon grows attached to the lonely, insecure girl. Lucy is full of contradictions: though once sexually promiscuous, she is jealous of Teiji's ex-lover, a mysterious woman who only seems to exist in his photographs. Jones's pacing is skillful and deliberate as she replays the troubling moments from Lucy's past distant and recent that seem to point to her guilt (for instance, Lily is not the first person of her acquaintance to have met an unfortunate end). The descriptions of Japan's landscapes, language, people and customs are delivered with fluency and intimacy, yet with the slightly detached clarity of an expat. Some readers may find Jones's intermingling of first- and third-person narration self-conscious and distracting "What I had chosen to share with him was my very first sexual encounter, Lucy's first crunch into the apple" and the hazy ending raises more questions than it answers. But this is less a whodunit than an examination of the slippery nature of truth and memory, obsessions and betrayals, all of which Jones handles with confidence and skill. National print advertising.