This weekend I read the third Book Girl novel: Book Girl and the Captive Fool.
In this book, Tohko discovers that someone is cutting pages out of library books. This offends her (despite her own habits where books are concerned), because the person is taking some of the best parts — like taking the strawberry off the top of a cake — and leaving the rest.
She drags Konoha into an investigation, and they catch the culprit, red-handed. As penance, the culprit must take part in the play the Book Club is putting on for the cultural festival — a tale of love, friendship, and betrayal. Soon, it becomes clear that the play and the situation of some of their classmates is similar….
My gosh, these things are dark: suicide, murder, assault, childhood trauma producing warped psyches. And throughout, charming book-fairy Tohko flits among the bloodshed and misery.
This third novel, as the two preceding, is something of a play-within-a-play: a book, story, or sometimes an author’s body of work is featured prominently in one or more discussions. Then mysterious events start to happen, at first trivial, but as Tohko and Konoha investigate, darker secrets are revealed. It isn’t long before the observant reader sees that the actions in the book parallel the actions in the work that Tohko discussed earlier. This doesn’t spoil the mystery, though: there are still surprises in store.
This third novel adds yet another twist. Reading the final paragraph caused me to revise my interpretation of a lot of what has gone before in the book, and makes clear that this series is not just mystery-of-the month, but has an over-arching plot. It’s got a twist that completely surprised me (thanks to a lot of authorial sleight-of-hand) and which makes me desperate for the next volume. Now the structure isn’t play-within-a-play, but play-within-a-play-within-a-play.
Also, it’s beginning to look as though an over-arching theme in this series concerns the masks we put on to hide our true selves, and the harm that those masks can do. It’s been clear from the first that Konoha has walled himself off from others, but this book begins to hint at Tohko’s mask, as well. I’m eager to see where the hints and clues in this volume will lead.