There is a murder in Rainbirds, and it’s certainly mysterious; but beyond that, banish any thoughts of a ‘murder mystery’. This is a book with drift.
It opens with post-grad student Ren Ishida transporting the ashes of his murdered sister, and then he drifts, passively, into her old life. He moves into her apartment in a small Japanese town, takes over her teaching job, even lies down on the path where her body was found. Clues to what happened float like those ashes on the wind, and Ren seems to experience life through a filter, a gauze. Hazy. Indistinct.
It may sound frustrating, but the effect is actually pleasantly hypnotic. Ren’s dreams are recounted more than once, and that dreamlike atmosphere soaks through to the rest of the book. It is sensory and compelling, and, despite the drift, there is a certain taut rope that tugs you through the shifting currents to the end.