Yuko Moriguchi is a school teacher, announcing her retirement to her class on the last day of term. She sermonises on the differences between good teachers in films who are able to drop their lesson plans to focus on the problems of the one recalcitrant student, whereas she feels that teachers should concentrate on the able and willing students. She theorises about HIV and AIDS, the topic of the book the class was supposed to read. She is wry, sarcastic and bitter. Oh, and she mentions that part of her reason for wanting to leave the teaching profession is that her daughter was murdered and the culprits are sitting in the classroom. But because the juvenile justice system is toothless, she has her own plans for revenge.
The narrative baton is then passed on to four other characters, each taking a different form (letter, diary, website, etc.), each telling us what we already know but seen through a different lens, and each taking the story that little bit further. And what a sordid little tale it is.
Confessions does not set out to be realistic, although some of the themes of teenage alienation, ambitious parents, popularity and so on are faithfully depicted. But the plot and narrative voices are very melodramatic and absolutely engrossing. Retelling the story so many times without it becoming stale or repetitive is no mean feat. The pacing is perfect and the characterisation, for all the luridness, feels right. The whole piece is a rollercoaster of emotions as we first feel sympathy for characters, then that sympathy turns into revulsion, and then back to sympathy again. Or vice versa.
The novel is short and the reader is left wanting more – always a good sign. It's a quick and easy read, but the ideas at its heart are really disturbing. This is Japanese Noir at its peak.