Book Review: Penance by Kanae Minato

Penance - Kanae Minato

It’s official, Minato is the Queen of writing tales of revenge!


When a group of young girls are approached by a stranger, they cannot know that the encounter will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Hours later, Emily is dead. The surviving girls alone can identify the killer. But not one of them remembers his face…

Driven mad by grief, the victim’s mother demands the girls find the murderer or else atone for their crimes. If they do neither, she will have her revenge. She will make them pay…

From the critically acclaimed author of Confessions, Penance is a dark and disturbing tale of revenge that will leave you reeling.


Five girls went out, only four came home. Emily’s mother, Asako, states that if the murderer is not caught before the statute of limitations on the murder is up, each girl will have to perform an act of penance that she approves of, otherwise she will have her revenge! Each girl has a viewpoint, and I’m going to tell you no more about what happens because it’s so much better to experience this book with no hints at what’s to come.

I said it about Confessions, and I’m saying it again about Penance– Minato has you hooked from beginning to end – it’s psychological warfare! Minato shows the power of words, how something that was said to you as a child stays with you and changes the course of your life. What’s so incredible about the way this novel is written is Minato drops psychological bombs without changing the tone of the narration. This, somehow, makes it more powerful, because the delivery is so casual, yet jaw-dropping. A large part of the success of this book is definitely its delivery. When you read translated books, it’s so satisfying to feel like absolutely nothing was lost in translation, so my thanks to Philip Gabriel for doing an excellent job translating this one.

The pace of this novel isn’t fast, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a slow-burner because you feel the impact of the plot from the very first chapter; each chapter is powerful, and leaves a lasting effect. The suspense is intense because you’re dying to know if the girls will help catch the killer, but secretly hoping they chose an act of penance, so you can see which disturbing way they chose to atone, and if Asako thinks it’s acceptable, because if not, what will she do? I don’t know what else to tell you, except read this book, a brilliant display of psychological revenge.

I did slightly prefer Confessions to this one, but I’m blown away by Minato’s storytelling abilities, and wish more of her work was translated into English. I highly recommend Penance to fans of psychological dramas and those who love a dark and disturbing tale of revenge.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon UK / Book Depository

23 thoughts on “Book Review: Penance by Kanae Minato

    1. Both are amazing reads, I’ve read a few Japanese crime fiction books now, and she is a standout author in the field! I think I might read another Japanese crime fic for the BookBum Club next month!

      Liked by 1 person

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