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Shadow Family    by Miyuki Miyabe Amazon.com order for
Shadow Family
by Miyuki Miyabe
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I have been a big fan of mysteries since I first picked one up in third grade. The majority involved amateur detectives sneaking around their town trying to figure out which of the inhabitants is really a killer. Sometimes, for a change, I will read a police procedural. Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe, billed as a police procedural, is different from any I have ever read.

The Tokyo police are looking into the murders of a college girl and her older, married lover. In the course of their investigation, they discover that the man was involved in a strange online role-playing game he and three other people created an Internet family. After his real daughter reports a stalker, the victim's pretend family falls under suspicion of his murder. At the police station, the daughter watches as her father's other family is questioned.

The book starts off in a confusing manner, as the first few chapters jump around chronologically making the exposition hard to follow. After the third chapter, the story becomes understandable as events follow in a linear fashion when the online family is brought in for questioning. What makes Shadow Family different from the usual police procedural is its lack of action. The entire story takes place in the police station's interrogation room.

We hear about officers being sent to pick up suspects, but we do not get to see them doing so. While some parts of the interrogation become a little intense, the only major action that occurs is the breakdown of the killer at the end, and even that is confined and rather peaceable. The identity of the killer was slowly made obvious, and without much build-up the twist in the story was not very surprising.

I found this lack of action boring, and recommend Shadow Family only to those who enjoy a strong psychological element to their mysteries, are looking for something out of the ordinary, and don't mind a slow pace.

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