THE WATANABE NAME begins in Nagano, Japan in 2002, when Kenji Watanabe is informed that new information that could potentially uncover the person who murdered his father 35 years ago has been found. Kenji recalls the fateful day and then, eventually, his time in the Japanese military during World War II. Throughout the novel, the reader is able to slowly piece together a series of events that led to one man’s murder and another’s suicide, a slow burn that culminates in Kenji’s desire to protect his family’s name—at all costs.
The writing of THE WATANABE NAME is nearly flawless, allowing readers to lose themselves in a story where grammatical issues or confused storytelling is not a problem. The novel has a very polished feel, which makes it an enjoyable and professional read. In some instances, however, the author’s need to remind readers of what’s happening in the story, including what the character’s motivations are or which vital plot points they should remember, can become tiresome. Nobeyama’s work does not require a heavy hand that leads the reader to a conclusion or an understanding, so it would be beneficial to remove some of these instances of over-explanation.
The plot is captivating, and most readers who enjoy a tale of mystery and suspense threaded with family drama will continue to turn pages in order to find out the outcome. However, the book lags a bit when the reader is transported to the section set during WWII, perhaps because the author felt the need for unnecessary explanations and descriptions. In general, though, the book flows well and is an easy, unencumbered read.
One of the only real problems with the novel is that it includes several instances of the same character archetypes: absent or distant men and scheming, money-hungry women. Female characters often take a backseat to male characters in this novel, which is a shame since there are a few interesting female characters who aren’t reduced to the flaws listed above. However, these women are not given as much attention, characterization, and detail as the male characters.
THE WATANABE NAME is a nearly flawlessly well-written mystery with a captivating plot that offers a dark perspective on family unity.
~Julia Tilford for IndieReader