Penance by Kanae Minato

Penance - Kanae Minato

I loved Minato’s last book and after discovering a number of weeks ago this book was out, I decided to read it for bingo and had another agonising wait.


The book follows a group of women who witnessed a murder when they were children. The group of girls all said they couldn’t remember what the murderer looked like at the time, so the mother of the murdered girl blames them for the perpetrator never being found. She tells them a few years after the murder, when they’re still children, that she’ll enact revenge on them unless they (a) catch the murderer, or (b) commit some act of penance that she’ll be happy with. We then follow each woman independently, in adulthood, carrying out whatever task she’s chosen.


This novel was completely different to the authors debut. Her other book was an out-and-out suspense and I expected this one to follow a similar path. There were surprises, but they were sparse. In favour of shocks, the author went for a much more literary feel, contained within a crime narrative. Going by the blurb I expected a crime novel, but something a bit more than what I got. This felt almost like five interconnected short stories, rather than a novel. What I loved so much about the author in her previous book wasn’t really there this time. She still has the ability to craft a twisty tale, but these sections were confined and not the overarching emphasis. I still enjoyed it, I just expected something different than what I got. I’ve been reading quite a bit of crime lately and it’s been done better. I got the feeling the author isn’t sure where she’s going or what she wants.


The main similarity with the first novel was that questions concerning morality were explored and weaved throughout. We got all sides of the picture, which was one of the most satisfying aspects.


I didn’t much like where the novel ended and feel it would have benefited from another 50-100 pages. As it was it was quite short, at just over 200 pages.