Japanese Literature Challenge: The Dark Maidens by Rikako Akiyoshi (2013)

Thanks to Tracy K @ Bitter Tea and Mystery, I came to know of the three-months long Japanese Literature Challenge being hosted @ Dolce Belleza . As I have a few Japanese books on my wishlist/ TBR, I decided to join the challenge.

The premise of Dark Maidens is certainly intriguing. Teen-aged school girls – all belonging to the literary club of an elitist missionary school – meet one dark, stormy night to discuss the death of Itsumi, their former president. That young girl had been found in a bed of flowers, clutching a bunch of lilies in her hands. Was her death an accident, suicide, or murder? Five girls present their own relationship with the dead girl; their initiation into the literary club, and their own views about the death in the form of a short story, in a ceremony called the Mystery Stew. The Club President, Sayuri, who has taken over after Itsumi’s death, passes her own remarks at the conclusion of each story. Will the truth be revealed?

I have always loved the Roshamon trope being used in books and movies: the same event being narrated from different points-of-view and perspectives and in this The Dark Maidens doesn’t disappoint though I feel that the science student Sonoko Koga with her 5Ws1H shouldn’t have been saddled with the story of vampires and Devil’s servant. That would have suited the novelist Shiyo Takonka better while Takonka’s story with its logical reasoning could have been given to Sonoko. However, these are just minor irritants in a book that I found quite gripping and virtually finished in one sitting. Though marketed as a YA book (with illustrations to boot), I think this is a book for all mystery lovers with unreliable narrators, undercutting, and a truly twisted end.

And the literary salon with bookcases full of books, the secluded atmosphere, and the cakes and coffee that appear as if by magic had me salivating.

I am keen to explore more of this author. Have you read her?


Opening lines: Greetings everyone. I would like to thank you all for gathering here on this stormy night.

First Published: 2013

Original Title: Ankoku Joshi

Translator: Kristi Fernandez

Publishing Details: NY: Vertical, 2018.

Alternate Title: Girls in the Dark

Other Opinions: Crime Fiction Lover, English Light Novels

12 thoughts on “Japanese Literature Challenge: The Dark Maidens by Rikako Akiyoshi (2013)

  1. I haven’t read her work, Neeru, but this does sound intriguing. Perfect, perhaps not, but I do like the different perspectives. And the mystery of how and why the girl died sounds interesting, too. I’m glad you found a lot to like about this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was fun and easy read but the end was a lot darker than I expected it to be. If you ever read it, I’d like to know your views. thanks for leaving the link to Rashomon review. really liked it when I read it a few years ago.


  2. I am very happy that you joined in on the Japanese Literature Challenge. I have slowed down on reading for the challenge (or any fiction reading really) because of some personal issues at home (my husband’s eye surgery) but my interesting in reading fiction has resurfaced, and I hope to get to my next book for that challenge soon.

    This looks very interesting and it is new to me; I will put it on a list to investigate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All thanks to you Tracy. Sorry to hear about your husband’s eye surgery. Hope it went off well and the doctors have allowed him to read etc. Waiting for your reviews to reappear.


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