Book Review: Naoko

“What they were living through was certainly mysterious, but apparently not without precedent in the world.”

On a trip to a ski resort in the winter holidays, a mother and her daughter are getting seriously injured in a bus accident and are brought into a hospital. Naoko, the mother, suddenly dies. Monami, a girl at the age of fourteen, survives her injuries. When she wakes up from the coma, however, it turns out that she speaks odd with the voice of her mother, and she also behaves quite like her.

The daughter’s father is frightened, but soon it becomes clear that Naoko’s spirit has taken possession of the body of her daughter Monami and lives on. The husband/father makes some research whether this really can happen and comes across a scientific explanation. He is glad that his wife and daughter have survived, but unexpected difficulties are coming his way.

Higashino Keigo 東野 圭吾 was born in 1958. He is a famous writer of more than sixty books and short story collections in Japan.

Higashino Keigo was the president of the organization “Mystery Writers of Japan” 日本推理作家協会 (2009-2013) and is mostly known for his mystery novels such as “The Devotion of Suspect X” (容疑者Xの献身, Yōgisha Ekkusu no Kenshin), part of his Detective Galileo series.

The original title of “Naoko” is “秘密 (himitsu)” which stands for “secret”. It is a novel and was published in 1998. The English translation was made available in 2004. It was made also into a Japanese movie in 1999, and a European remake “Secret” was produced in 2007.

When I read the beginning, I rolled my eyes and thought, what a strange paranormal nonsense this book is. But when I accepted the premise, namely that the spirit of the dead mother takes possession of her daughter, a real dramatic story came to live.

This story is a tragedy. And even if you do not believe in paranormal conditions, then the story of “Naoko” is extremely exciting and remarkably real from a psychological point of view. The story is surprisingly good and has some touching moments in store.

Reviewed Title

東野 圭吾. Himitsu (秘密), 1998. (Japanese cover)

Keigo Higashino. Naoko. Translated by Kerim Yasar, Vertical 2004 (English cover).