I was doubly intrigued by the blurb of Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight; first by the premise of a man and woman sharing a final night together before the end of their relationship, then by the twist that each believes the other to be a murderer.
I arrange my face into a smile, ready to greet the man who may be planning to kill me.Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight, Riku Onda
The opening chapters certainly live up to that promise. Riku Onda successfully evokes the tension from both characters’ perspectives without any hint as to which of them is more justified in their anxieties. Riku Onda doesn’t pull her punches, the atmosphere is immediately charged with danger as well as the complicated emotions of two people saying goodbye to each other and to a phase of their lives.
Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight isn’t a detective novel, even though both characters profess to want to know ‘whodunnit’, and in some ways that hurts it. Riku Onda never successfully conveys any motive for the possible murder from either character, which makes it hard to really believe their suspicions of one another.
Why do her words come to me in snatches, like sound bites from a documentary? They filter into my brain like pieces in a mosaic and settle into place.Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight, Riku Onda
Despite the fraught situation Aki and Hiro find themselves in, Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight isn’t an emotionally raw novel. The prose keeps the reader somewhat detached from both characters, even at moments that are supposed to be loaded with fear or anger. Similarly, the twist ending feels interesting without having much impact, either on the readers’ feelings or the course of events. By the end of the book, nothing has really changed from the beginning in a material way.
Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight was interesting, but not hugely memorable, nor something that seems it would reward rereading.