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Return To Hiroshima - reviews part 2 - 2018

 (reviews "Return to Hiroshima" continued plus interviews and guest posts )

Boy oh boy !! This was one of the darkest books I have read and made me want to puke my guts out a lot of the time. That’s a compliment, by the way, for the darkness factor. The sordid secrets, the fine line between fiction and truths from different versions of the same event, distinction of truths, and deception all come together in this story brilliantly to portray human nature at its worst(…). The pacing is fast and the book is what I would call a page-turner (…)If you are a wimp like me when it comes to darker themes, then I would recommend reading this book by spacing it out with books that will be cheery and fun so as not to get sucked into the perpetual doom and gloom this book will give you. (…)if you love history and historically based literary style, dark noir fiction, I highly recommend checking this one out. I gave the book 4 stars, and it was an unforgettable read. Hopefully, I won’t get any nightmares. Also on Goodreads

 This was quite an interesting book. When I was first asked to read this book, I thought it was going to be more about the crime lords in Japan. What I got was so much more. It’s about twisted family dynamics, mental health, toxic relationships and just how far some would go to get justice. There were layers and layers to this book that I don’t think I caught the first time around. I’ll have to read this book again to really catch everything that this book had to offer. (…)I enjoyed this book. But it was a bit tricky to get into. I actually had to start over because I just couldn’t grasp what was happening. Once I did that, things made a lot more sense. The author writes beautifully. It was prosey but not quite. It was like the author put a different spin on it. One thing that really helped me out is the author put information of whose chapter it was, who was in the scene and the date. That helped quite a bit and I wish other authors would do. (…)I wouldn’t mind rereading it so I can catch everything the second time. I wrote in my notes that this book reminded me of a puzzle. There were a lot of pieces that you knew belonged but you just couldn’t figure out where they went until the end. I highly recommend this book but I bring that recommendation with an age limit. I think someone my age (I’m 27 years old) and a little older would enjoy this book more than someone that is younger.  Also on Goodreads and Amazon

(….) The prose is fast-paced and urgent, but slow enough to get the descriptions to wrap around you. I felt as if I was right next to the characters and could imagine every single scene with no problems. There were, however, many pages with no paragraph breaks, which makes it a bit tiring to the eyes. All the expressions and words in Japanese get explained, and the author does not need to use complicated words to get across his amazing writing skills. I'll be honest, I hated the ending, but that doesn't mean that it's a bad ending. On the contrary, it fits the story's tone perfectly.(…)  I had a hard time predicting what would happen in the story, something that rarely happens. (…) This book is for those who are looking for a dark and gritty story set in what feels like a post-apocalyptic world but is actually 1995 Hiroshima. If you're into Noir, Crime Thrillers, Mystery, Literary, and Historical Fiction, I recommend this book to you.

Alga’s Review  Also on  Amazon and Instagram (Instagram: @alga_reads)

 I've always been intrigued by the Japanese culture and even took language classes in college (…)⁣Therefore, the things that I enjoyed most about the book were the kernels of Japanese history, stories and customs. The time setting was set during the 50th anniversary of the atom bomb and this helped to bounce the narrative back and forth between the present and the country's history. ⁣

The Crooked House:

This book was written almost with poetic verse. The chapters were incredibly short and switched through many POVs. (…)Every time I picked up this book it took me a couple chapters to get into a good reading flow. Just like I do sometimes with classics. (…) I could not read this one with the speed I would normally consume a book. Not because it was bad, not by any means. But because of the heavy content. Some aspects of it tipped into the horror genre. (…)If you’re looking for a sometimes gruesome historical fiction thriller, this one would be perfect for you!


 Return to Hiroshima is a dark story that takes place during the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshma bombing.  I actually don’t read a ton of crime fiction despite devouring true crime. However, I am a big “fan” of wart history and was really drawn in the synopsis of this book (…) Honestly, it’s more than just crime fiction. It’s somewhere in between crime, historical fiction, noir, literary fiction.(….) Starting with a series of characters that slowly come together as the book progresses, there           are a lot of layers here showing a country’s horrifying past. Set in the mid-1990s, Japan’s economic depression and the history of the nuclear holocaust loom heavily.  (….) The book is delivered in short chapters, alternating between the unique characters. The style reminded me very much of one of my favorite reads this year.  (…) It’s good that we are given these smaller pieces to bite off and chew because this is a challenging read, in a good way. It’s dark, gritty, gruesome, and not for the faint of heart. But, it’s so worth it. For something so dark, the writing is truly beautiful. Also on Goodreads, Amazon and Instagram (Instagram: @books.beans.botany)


This is certainly one of those books which really makes you think. (….)I am quite picky when it comes to noir fiction, I am pleased I went against my usual reservations and gave this book a try. (…)as it turned out to be a very compelling and intriguing book, completely different to what I usually read. (…)it is a very intriguing and gritty book, it’s expertly written and if you love the darker, more lurid aspects of noir fiction then this one is the book you should read.

Chicks, Rogues and Scandals   Also on Goodreads, Amazon and Instagram (@chicksroguesandscandals)

 This is a page turning story that while confusing at times with the rotations between characters at every chapter and multiple plots and subplots, the story still keeps the reader drawn in (…)This was an engrossing (and gross, in a good way) book and I recommend it for fans of the genre(s).

Coffeedogsbooks   Also on Goodreads and Amazon

Not for the faint hearted, the book’s depiction of characters are vivid and has very fine attention to detail. Each character has their own sub plot and their lives intertwine along with the story progression. There is a lot of suspense to the story line as mystery is slowly unraveled. There are twists and turns as early beliefs are overturned/questioned by words from another character later on. Like a montage, the story switches back and forth from one place in time to another place in time effortlessly and smoothly. Japan’s dark war history, the 731 unit and being dropped the nuclear bombs, brings a surreal sense of reality.

Eddie Wu (@wuyuansheng35) Also on Goodreads

There is no doubt in my mind that this book is demanding. There are terrifying true subjects involved here like the effects of the bombing of Hiroshima on its people and their descendans, the sickening story of Secret Unit 731, and the Yakuza. There are also views into the lives of several characters that are gritty, insane, despondent, and sometimes beautiful. The prose is exceptional and drew me in right away, but was contrasted with the onerous content. It was often hard to read. I still loved it.  (….) The question between what is divine and what is insane is often played upon, leaving you feeling frightened and unsure of if there has ever really been magic in the world or just varying cases of megalomania.  (…) The Japanese concept of Shoganai, which means “it can’t be helped” has an important role. If something is out of your control, it’s better to quicly accept it and move on.  That is the word of the day for this whole book, but used ironically. While many of the things these characters endure seem like they cannot be helped, the opposite is also true. If humanity and the individuals that make it up had been more diligent and compassionate to themselves, and one another, almost all of those terrible things that occurred would have been helped.  Also on Goodreads

  Having Japanese family, I’m generally very ‘into’ books set there; one of the highlights is learning more about the culture than I already know. Now, there’s no denying that this is an expertly written book full of wonderfully descriptive phrases but, for me, it’s just a bit too dark. I tend to gloss over the more brutal sections in most novels, not just this one. I’m sure other readers will be absolutely fascinated by this tale and quite into it, but it really wasn’t one for me. However, I can appreciate the quality of the writing and am happy to give this 4*.

Grace J ReviewerLady

Also on Goodreads                                                                                    

The author uses intricate plotting, vividly portrayed characters and skilful use of sensory imagery, allowing the reader to experience Japanese culture and life in an immersive way. (…) The battle between traditional and modern and the obsession with power is a recurring theme. It is a difficult novel to read both in complexity, and because of the evil it exposes, but it’s absorbing and fascinating too.

Jane Hunt  Also on Amazon

This was a book that demanded concentration to keep up with the many characters and how they would eventually fit together. I did find it quite difficult to follow, but as the story developed and more was revealed about the characters it became almost compulsive reading to see what happened next. By the midpoint I was totally invested and intrigued. The author’s quirky style had won me over.(…) Without a shadow of a doubt I can say this story had a varied cast unlike any other book I’ve ever read (…) With some characters I’m still not overly sure who to believe as many their stories contradicted each other and I couldn’t see the truth for the blurring of the lines. Definitely a story to keep you thinking! (…)The twist at the end was dramatic and unexpected, yet also sublimely appropriate. This was certainly not a story where anything was predictable. Also on Amazon

Never in my life has a book given me as much distress as Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven. It is filled with very descriptive horrors of torture by the Japanese to POWs during WWII. It has painful details of the Nazi like Japanese Unit 731 scientific experiments on humans as though they were lab rats. Its short crisp chapters include depression, suicide, rape, drug abuse, pornography, matricide, insanity, and nuclear holocaust. I could not read this book at night. It left me sleepless. However, this book is a masterpiece in storytelling. I am glad I kept reading. The story has meaning. It has importance. (…)This is not a book for everyone. It has triggers. Yet it tells an amazing story about family, perseverance, and even hope. Not every book is funny, romantic and happy but neither is life and Return to Hiroshima reminds us that there are consequences and Karma is real.   Also on Goodreads and Amazon

 This book is told in short chapters that make unputdownable. It was well-written and played on every emotion.

It was a very heavy read, with multiple triggers, definitely is not for everyone, but i loved every minute of it. I went in to this book completely blind. The author did a really good job at building an incredibly terrifying world of impending doom. This novel really makes you think and is not one to take lightly. Return to Hiroshima was dark. It was hard, but gripping. Grim and sinister, but fascinating..


This is such a haunting and troubling story that really made me think hard about the past.

Return to Hiroshima is such an important story as it discusses so many important topics and themes that aren’t really known or taught about. Today we are not very aware what happened in Japan during or after WWII. We meet an array of different characters throughout this story who were all very different. This is such a horrifying book with many graphic descriptions so please be careful heading into it.

This was an intense, eye opening, disturbing read and such a mix of genres that it was quite unlike anything else I have ever read. Part noire, part historical fiction this was a immensely intriguing yet darkly atmospheric look into life of the criminal underworld in the city of Hiroshima during the economic crash of the mid 90s. (…)I really enjoy a dark and gory read, and this didn’t disappoint at all. (It was the trigger warnings that attracted me to this book). The writing style was so richly immersive and had such powerful visual imagery, that I long to see Return To Hiroshima on the big screen. It was completely unpredictable, and I loved how it was impossible to tell which path the story would take, or which characters to trust. I would definitely recommend Return To Hiroshima to anyone who enjoys an ultra dark mystery with a lot of violence thrown in.

Hershamelessmoodreader’s review                                        Also on Amazon

I’ve never read a book classified as noir fiction. While this story was great, I’m not sure it’s going to be a genre for me. I am glad I tried it though. The story was very engaging and entertaining. It definitely keeps you gripped from beginning to end. The writing style is well done. Even though this is not my preferred genre, I could tell the author was very talented. I don’t always enjoy multiple perspectives but it worked here. It really helped to give a good feel for the different aspects of the book, which all came together. There were some disturbing moments, which makes me realize this isn’t my genre, but they fit into the story well. I hate unnecessary violence that doesn’t fit in the story line, but that wasn’t the case here. I also enjoyed learning about the Japanese culture, and how the bomb affected life during the decades after. ⁣

Stacey Smith ⁣      Also on Goodreads

 I enjoyed reading this book that fell outside of my normal reading choices. It will keep you reading once you start, and it is very interesting overall. (…) I  think this book will resound with fans of historical fiction and books about war. (….)I learned a lot about Japanese culture and geography from this book. (…)I would enjoy picking up more from this author in the future.   Also on Goodreads

 This book was so different to what I would normally read. Although it has elements of crime, thriller and historical fiction which I love, this was so unique! It blended so many elements and genres, educating me not only on Japanese culture but also on a huge historical event of the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack. It brings together some really uniquely different, fierce and feisty characters to culminate in an amazing plot that had me hooked all the way through. I got so absorbed in each character in each chapter, trying to work out how they would be bought together. This was so well written, very intriguing and a definite recommendation if you’re into the same genres as me. Considering he is a non-Japanese author the elements of Japanese language included was very clever! Definitely give this a read


Such a sad, terrifying, dark book! So much death. So much wickedness. So much suffering.
Although it's set in the city that suffered the first atomic bomb - maybe the worst action that humans have ever done - it's not a book "about" that. But the setting is appropriate because it is a book
that looks full on at the wickedness and darkness that makes such actions possible. It does not spare the reader's feelings or offer much hope. But despite all this the poetry of the writing is absolutely mesmerising, the story weaves itself like a seductive, terrible nightmare through your mind. An amazing book that I won't ever forget.

Dark’s Reviews

Reading Return to Hiroshima was like staring into an abyss and deciding whether or not to follow the obvious threat all the way down. It’s a sinister work of fiction that should come with a heap of trigger warnings as it doesn’t shun depictions of troubled youth, death, destruction, and (sexual) violence. Van Laerhoven’s book shows what happens when someone starts unpacking unspeakable trauma. The novel plays around with reality a lot, and deception and hidden truths are at the centre of Van Laerhoven’s storytelling. Return to Hiroshima demands from the reader to stay alert as the story switches between perspectives and characters rapidly. It takes some getting used to the book’s structure, which initially feels disjointed and might leave you spinning. On the other hand, the benefit of it is that each chapter is filled with questions that beg for immediate answers and that practically every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger. Van Laerhoven drops crumbs in each chapter for readers to greedily feed on, despite their awful aftertaste, and in the end impressively strings together the narratives of his characters. In this, Return to Hiroshima is ruthless like Rokurobei: it lures you into the dark alleys of Hiroshima and, too compelled, it becomes impossible to avert your eyes from the pages that contain so much horror and darkness. (…)All in all, Return to Hiroshima painfully reflects the dark nature of humankind in general. Perhaps it’s not surprising that in a world where people willingly commit atrocious acts of total destruction demons like Rokurobei can thrive. (…)Is there then no way to climb out of this abyss? There might be. The paper cranes left by children at the Peace Monument remind us that the future of and hope for a more bearable world lies in the hands of the young – a hopeful message needed in a tale that’s otherwise too dark, and too real, to handle.

The Gilded Edge

 Return to Hiroshima was my first book by Belgian author Van Laerhoven, and I enjoyed it immensely! This is an ultra-noir that blends thriller, crime and historical fiction with one dark and twisty plot. It is heavy and I am going to be honest: it is not for everyone.

Seriously, I loved everything about this book, from the plot to characters and the setting, they were absolutely amazing. The writing is spectacular and even with a slow-burn pace, it was engaging, suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the melancholy haunting feel I get from this book. (…) enjoyed the Japan setting. The author did an excellent job in transporting me to Japan as the culture, customs and beliefs of the Japanese were well-portrayed. I learned quite a lot and it did motivate me to pick up my Japanese language lessons again! (…) When the pieces of this complex puzzle finally fit together, you will be stupefied with chills up your spine.

In a nutshell, READ this book. It is unlike other thriller or crime novels. It is unique, heavy and raw.

Elvina Ulrich’s Reviews

 (….)It just carries a vibe that resonates with me, allowing the story to stay with me long after I’ve finished reading. A quick warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. Return to Hiroshima is brutal to its ensemble of characters, pulling no punches. There are graphic mentions of torture and the aftermath of exposure to radiation. Van Laerhoven explores the human condition in a city still haunted by World War II fifty years on, and he does not shy away from the horror he finds. This is an ensemble cast, with a switch in character focus every few chapters. Mitsuko’s chapters are told in first person, while the rest are in third person. This may be jarring to some, but works brilliantly as the novel progresses. The cast of characters come together gradually, with the narrative shifting less as they congregate. They are the highlight of the novel. It’s a rollercoaster of a novel, It’s gritty and dark and not for everyone. I did have some issues, though they had nothing to do with the quality of the book: I would’ve liked to see more of Xavier Douterloigne, for one. This is a book without a happy ending, and I loved it.   Also on Goodreads and Amazon


 Interviews and guest posts

Interview with voice actor David Brower:

Podcast interview Blood On the Rocks nr. 37

guest post: All The Love You’ve Been Searching For All Your Life

Guest Post: Literature Resonates

 and on:

Last but not least, “Literature Resonates” was also featured in the blog “Murder is Everywhere”

Analysis of the chapters in Book Reader Magazine

Interview on the talk show “Carry on Harry” – Singapore

Interview Arm Cast Podcast episode 204

Interview Mimosas with Michael:

Interview on Bookwormex

guest post “The Flower-Eating Woman and Me”

 Interview on All Things Bookie

Interview on Meghan's House of Books

Interview on Creatively Speaking Radio with host Luanna Helena















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