This suspense novel focuses on a group of men and women who bear social ostracism as a result of missteps in their past that left them with a criminal record.
Worn down by the demands of his job in marketing for a travel agency, Takao Yoshimura, 30, decides to try amphetamines, only to immediately be arrested on drug charges and receive a three-year suspended sentence. A week after his release from detention, a fire breaks out at the apartment he’s finally managed to find, and he’s forced to look for new quarters. He moves into a shared house nearby called Plage. The first floor is a café in the daytime and a bar at night, and the upstairs is divided into a series of door-less rooms. The owner is Junko, 33, whose father had gone to prison for “bodily injury resulting in death,” then after doing his time and being released, was so poorly treated by those who knew of his past that he committed suicide. Recognizing the difficulties that ex-cons face in finding both work and housing, she decided to make Plage a shared house to help in their rehabilitation. Takao works downstairs while trying to land more substantial employment. As he settles in, the reader learns the stories of the other residents—two women and three men.
One of the residents, a man named Hayami, is actually an undercover freelance journalist. He is looking for a man, identified only as “A,” in connection with a case in which a friend of A’s was strangled to death. The man known as A had in fact been arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime, but then the woman A was seeing, whose testimony had failed to corroborate his alibi, changed her story, and he had been ruled innocent and set free.
As events progress, Miwa, one of the women living at Plage, is abducted and imprisoned by someone linked to her past crime. She and Takao have become lovers, and now Takao and the other men of Plage, together with some regular customers, set out to rescue her. In the process, Hayami is stabbed to death, and it is then that the other residents learn for the first time that he is actually a journalist. The man previously know only as A turns out to be Junko’s boyfriend, Tomoki. But Tomoki is indeed innocent of killing his friend; the true killer was Hayami. Hayami had intended to write an article that would falsely expose Tomoki as the murderer.
The characterizations shine in this story about men and women who live under the cloud of their criminal pasts. It is a compelling and satisfying read.