The Earthquake Bird
In Tokyo, a love triangle tragically unravels. One woman is presumed dead and the man has disappeared. Now, the third party, a young Englishwoman named Lucy Fly is in custody-and considered the chief suspect.
In Susanna Jones’ haunting debut novel The Earthquake Bird, readers are taken inside the mind of Lucy, who has fled a painful past in Yorkshire to work as a translator in Japan. It is there that she begins an intensely erotic affair with a brilliant and secretive photographer named Teiji. But it is when Lucy and Teiji befriend Lily Bridges that Lucy’s own life begins to fall apart. For now, the police are accusing her of killing Lily, because it’s becoming clear that she’s had the motive, the means, and the opportunity.
Penzler Pick, August 2001: A bestseller in England, Susanna Jones’s first novel is one of those books that grips you while you read and stays with you long after you’ve finished.
Lucy Fly is an English woman working as a translator in Tokyo. When the story opens she has been arrested for the murder of another English woman, Lily Bridges, whose partial remains have just been found. As Lucy is interrogated, she tells of her childhood in Yorkshire, her ability with languages, and her escape from her drab life to the relative anonymity of living in Japan. She also talks about her friendships: with the Japanese women with whom she works and sometimes socializes; with Teiji, a photographer with whom she is having an affair; and with Lily, who comes from the same part of Yorkshire as Lucy and who reminds Lucy of everything she is trying to escape.
And yet Lucy is drawn to Lily. Lily is working as a bartender, but in England she was a nurse and, when the two of them go on a hike together and Lucy is hurt, she is made comfortable by Lily’s attentions. Even as we listen to Lucy, we feel that she may be hiding something from us. She doesn’t tell us a great deal about her affair with Teiji, for instance. In fact, she admits that she doesn’t remember much of their conversations, although she tells us that they must have talked a lot since she knows so much about him. Also disconcerting is her strange habit of lapsing into the third person when talking about herself.
As she reveals what she knows to the police—and to the reader—they, and we, become increasingly uncomfortable. The more we know about Lucy, the less we understand about her relationships with Teiji and Lily. When we finally do understand some of what she is saying, we are shocked.
This little gem of a book is a startlingly good debut. —Otto Penzler
Barnes and Noble
Susanna Jones’s exceptional debut is a thriller set in Tokyo, where 34-year-old Lucy Fly—an English expat who translates “tedious” technical manuals—has agreed to help a new arrival, Lily Bridges, navigate her first confusing weeks in Japan. Like Lucy, Lily has also fled an unhappy life in Yorkshire, but as Lily insinuates herself into Lucy’s life, Lucy finds that she has gained a friend but lost her sometime lover, Teiji. “I had been in possession of a lover and a friend. Now
I had neither. They had stolen themselves from each other and me.”
When Lily disappears and her body is found dismembered in Tokyo Bay, Lucy becomes the chief suspect and the focus of an intense police interrogation, through which she narrates her life story. From her unwelcome birth through her painful Yorkshire childhood, Lucy illuminates her growing fascination with music and language, both of which helped provide her means of escape.
But Lucy now must struggle to prove her innocence in the murder of Lily. Alas, the first person she must convince is herself. “The defendant must decide how to plead. And here is my plea. Not guilty, but not not guilty…. I, of all people, should not be too hasty to judge.” As she probes ever deeper into the enigmatic mind of Lucy Fly, Susanna Jones creates a brilliantly rendered drama of psychological suspense in which the ghostly vestiges of guilt, the thin line between love and obsession, and the seeming clarity of language combine to cloud the judgment of both character and reader alike.