Secret Volume 1
In a departure from previous series Doubt and Judge by Yoshiki Tonogai, this book doesn’t have students locked in a booby-trapped warehouse and told to kill each other one by one. Instead, they’re in their classrooms, which makes the whole thing creepier, by keeping them in the setting of daily life.
A small group of students have been in counseling because they were the only survivors of a bus crash that killed many of their classmates. On the last day of their treatment, their counselor announces that in their group of six, three of them are murderers. They have a week, and then he will turn the evidence over to the police. In the meantime, they are supposed to find a way to “answer for their crimes”.
This setup is obviously artificial, but I was drawn into it, in part due to the unlikely nature of half of a group of survivors being killers. And there’s something cleverly demented about a kid using a tragedy to get his or her own desired revenge. With the discussion of the bus crash and the deadly aftermath, I was frequently reminded of Limit, or more recently, on the American side, No Mercy.
As if the crash wasn’t enough, we’re also told another student committed suicide after the event, something else for the reader to speculate about. The media are hounding the students, partly because one of them had a burgeoning idol career, a profession in jeopardy due to her injuries. She wasn’t supposed to be on the trip, due to preparing to shoot a movie, but she wanted to have one last regular school experience.
The flashbacks are my favorite part, as that’s how we learn more about the relationships and motivations of the surviving students. It’s odd to see those so young having so much nostalgia for how things used to be, before the crash, but with such a traumatic event, it makes sense that they’d be overemotional and regretful.
Secret volume 1 is dense, with a lot of background. I ended up reading it more than once (in part because artistically, many of the students look similar and I wasn’t sure I was distinguishing them sufficiently). By the end, we’ve already found out about one killing and the circumstances behind it, although it leads into another death cliffhanger. If the series continues to move at this pace, it’ll be a thrilling read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)