The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw, Review: Haunting gravitas

In The Snow Kimono Mark Henshaw offers readers a literary puzzle of psychological suspense with haunting gravitas.

The Snow Kimono Synopsis

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The Snow Kimono - Mark Henshaw - Review

There are times in your life when something happens after which you’re never the same. It may be something direct or indirect, or something someone says to you. But whatever it is, there is no going back. And inevitably, when it happens, it happens suddenly, without warning.

Paris: 1989. Recently retired Inspector of Police Auguste Jovert receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter. Two days later, a stranger comes knocking on his door.

Set in Paris and Japan, The Snow Kimono tells the stories of Inspector Jovert, former Professor of Law Tadashi Omura, and his one-time friend the writer Katsuo Ikeda. All three men have lied to themselves, and to each other. And these lies are about to catch up with them.

A quarter of a century after the award-winning bestseller Out of the Line of Fire, Mark Henshaw returns with an intricate psychological thriller that is also an unforgettable meditation on love and loss, on memory and its deceptions, and the ties that bind us to others.

(Text Publishing)

Genre: Literature, Drama, Mystery, Thriller


I often find myself drawn to book synopses that sign-post a certain complexity, whether that be a literary puzzle or a psychological one. The premise of Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono (plus the stunning cover art) was the perfect reading bait for me.

Having no prior experience of Henshaw’s work, I was immediately struck by the resonance and clarity of his prose. Each phrase, each sentence, felt as though it were given great consideration, yet the author’s intention rarely felt laboured. Henshaw’s authorial maturity and confidence gives the reader a feeling of safe hands at the wheel.

But don’t for one minute think this tale is a leisurely weekend drive – the key ingredients are that which lurk in the shadows made by respectable society and the suspense is palpable from the opening.

The Snow Kimono exudes a primal tension between the sexes, the constantly shifting balance of power and control.

Through recurring symbolism and several trance-like descriptive passages, the Japanese geisha/courtesan cultural paradigm is played out in many forms and applied to society more broadly.

I won’t even try to describe the plot for fear of spoiling the reading experience. Suffice to say a certain level of concentration is required to keep track of all the characters involved in the Russian Doll narrative, particularly in the early staging where I’ll admit to being confused on occasion.

This is a tale about characters recounting experiences (their own and those of people they know) with a heavy focus on the psychology of the narrators. However, just like the Japanese puzzle boxes known for their bespoke solutions and aesthetic beauty, The Snow Kimono culminates in a conclusion worthy of the intellectual investment.

Considering both the subject matter and the multi-layered philosophical considerations, I think The Snow Kimono would be best appreciated by a mature reader. Memorable in its complexity and gravitas, it will exercise your mind for some time after reading.

BOOK RATING: The Story  4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5 — Overall 4.25

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Related Reads:
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada  /  Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann  /  The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata  /  Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

About the Author, Mark Henshaw

Mark Henshaw has lived in France, Germany, Yugoslavia and the USA. He currently lives in Canberra. His first novel, Out of the Line of Fire (1988), won the FAW Barbara Ramsden Award and the NBC New Writers Award. It was one of the biggest selling Australian literary novels of the decade. For many years Mark was a curator at the National Gallery of Australia. His most recent novel is The Snow Kimono.

* My receiving a paperback copy of this novel from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.