by Kerry Chen ’19
The story, Ties of Shooting Stars, focuses on three siblings, Kouichi, Taisuke, and Shizuna Ariake. They had a happy family until fourteen years ago, when they found their parents lying in blood, murdered. Their life entered a tough track: they were sent to an orphanage and their money was stolen by people they trusted. Suffering from the injustice of their parents’ unsolved murder and the pain of betrayal, the three siblings take their future into their own hands by forming themselves into a ring of con-artists.
They use their intelligence and terrific acting skills to swindle money away from their unsuspecting, and rich, victims to retaliate on society. Although scammers are usually delineated as evil people, I love these sibling-con-artists, not only because of how amazingly they run their fraud team, but also because of how they love and depend on each other.
Starting with a unique perspective and attractive plots, and ending with a meaningful message, the book Ryusei no Kizuna, which means “Ties of Shooting Stars,” is written by a famous Japanese mystery writer, Keigo Higashino. Some of his well-known works include The Devotion of Suspect X, Malice, Journey Under the Midnight Sun, and many other brilliant, sophisticated novels.
Higashino was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1958, where he majored in engineering at Osaka Prefecture University. While he was an engineer, he began to write, and became famous for his first published book, “After School.” He won a number of prizes, such as the Naoki Prize, an Edgar Award nomination, and the Prix Polar International. Many of his works are televised and his books are well-liked by people in both Asia and the United States.
As a small-scale fraud division, the three siblings are so smart that they make huge amounts of money without messing up once. Kouichi Ariake, the eldest brother, does research on their victims and comes up with thoughtful and meticulous plans. The second brother, Taisuke, has the skill of disguising himself: he can dress up like any occupation, and act exactly the same as a real one. Finally, the little sister, Shizuna Ariake, has the beauty and charm that makes almost every man fall in love with her and, therefore, willing to give his money away. I was surprised — and you will be, too — when I saw how they earn their money, and I was impressed by their perfect cooperation and professional techniques.
More importantly, the relationship of the siblings is so precious and priceless that it is what many people are dreaming of. When their life is a mess and they are on the edge of giving up, they still have each other. Just as the eldest brother tells his younger brother and sister when they are lying on the ground watching meteor showers, “we are like the shooting stars, flying across the sky aimlessly, without knowing where our lives will burn to in the end. Yet—three of us are firmly connected, no matter…where we are. So nothing is to be afraid of, because I am here.”
This is one of my favorite quotes, and it also tells why the title of this book is “Ties of Shooting Stars.” The first time they watched the meteor showers was right around the time their parents were murdered. The shooting star hence becomes a bond that “ties” the three siblings together, reminding them that they have each other to rely on after all the dreadful events that happened to them.
Kouichi, Taisuke, and Shizuna are kind people, who deserve a happy life, but the society they live in fails to fulfill their hopes. It is the real world: there are no fairy tales, and there is not always justice. People struggle to decide between right and wrong. The three siblings face a dilemma: should they continue to be innocent and keep being taken advantage of? Or join the frauds and start benefiting themselves by sacrificing others? At first, they choose the latter, as Kouichi points out: “In this society, you either defraud others or you are defrauded by them.” However, as they become more mature, they realize that living lies and hiding from the law does nothing but create more despair.
Among all the fantastic characters in the book, Kouichi is my favorite. He is mature, smart, and responsible. When they found out that their parents were killed fourteen years ago, Kouichi, who was only twelve, hides his tears and proves to be a reliable big brother. He knows that they will be all alone the day after, and he wants to give Taisuke and Shizuna the warmth of a family, just like when their parents were still alive. My heart shakes when I read the ending of the book, where Kouichi goes to Shizuna’s lover and asks him to take care of his sister, after he and Taisuke have decided to go to jail for redemption. When the lover asks him why they do all these things, Kouichi’s reply makes me stop and reflect: “To live in this society, we, with no power or anyone to rely on, have no choice. Now I know that I made an irreversible mistake. I shouldn’t let my brother and sister be criminals no matter what. Stopping this is the responsibility of an elder brother, but I did the opposite thing.”
Moreover, Kouichi is also very intelligent. As the leader of their fraud team, Kouichi is always the one who comes up with a thoughtful plan. He uses his computer to search for information and decides how they will act to gain trust from their victims. In addition, he is the one who figures out the killer of their parents as soon as he sees the scratch patterns on the tip of the umbrella the killer left.
At last, the siblings change their mind and choose the first path: to follow their conscience and do something right. The happy ending tells us that no matter how tough life can be, how many unfair things you have been through, they no longer matter as long as you have someone beside you to support you. Either your family or someone you love can help you carry on and face the challenges in life.