Shibai: Remembering Jane Britton's Murder

Don Mitchell (Author)

Product Details

Saddle Road Press
Publish Date
November 27, 2020
5.5 X 8.5 X 0.6 inches | 0.75 pounds
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About the Author

Don Mitchell is an ecological anthropologist, writer, book designer, and photographer who lived among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville for several years in the 1960s and 1970s, and returned in 2001 after Bougainville's war of secession. He grew up in Hilo, on the island of Hawai'i, and graduated from Hilo High School. He studied anthropology and creative writing at Stanford and earned a PhD in anthropology from Harvard. For many years he was a professor of anthropology at Buffalo State, a unit of the State University of New York. In his non-academic life, he was a dedicated marathon and ultra-marathon runner and a professional road race timer (operating as Runtime Services). He continues to tackle long distances on foot, though much more slowly. He lived in Buffalo and later in Colden, New York, before moving back to his childhood home in Hilo, where he lives with the poet Ruth Thompson. He published an academic book and articles about Nagovisi, but in the early 1990s returned to writing fiction and poetry. His stories have won praise from many quarters, including a Pushcart nomination and awards from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, New Millennium Writings and other journals. He has been an Artist in Residence for the City of Portales, NM, and in 2019 shared (with Ruth Thompson) the Jack Williamson Visiting Professor of English Chair at Eastern New Mexico University. He is actively involved in matters concerning Mauna Kea, Hawai'i's tallest and most contested mountain.


"A mystery within a mystery, this book is written in the second person, the years of living with this unsolved death deftly handled, in trying to make sense of what had happened and who the murderer could be. Rather than being a hindrance or a vehicle of accusation, the you becomes a road of self-exploration, attendant to varying aspects of the murder, the "shibai" of friends and enemies, and the writer's life itself. The honesty is disarming at times, sad and heart rending in others, the you a way to look at life's triumphs and failures, as well as a way to examine the murder and the protagonist's role, in this wonderful and unusual book."

-Juliet Kono Lee, author of AnshΕ«

"On one level, this book recounts Mitchell's compelling and brutally honest odyssey in dealing with this traumatic event for half a century until the murder was finally solved in November 2018. But on a deeper level Mitchell forces the reader to grapple with the passage of time, the nature of truth, indeed with life and death itself. And he takes us on a captivating cross cultural journey, moving from the remote Pacific island of Bougainville to the dramatic Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island to the bowels of the Cambridge police station."

- Michael Widmer, Journalists and former President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation

"For fifty years, Don Mitchell lived with the memory of finding his friend and fellow anthropology classmate, Jane Britton, murdered in her apartment. Questioned then about his potential involvement, Mitchell struggled for decades with a lack of answers about her death. In his book, he explores how memory and meaning shapeshift, the way facts can shatter long-held perceptions about one's self and others, and how love and connection transcend time and culture. Mitchell's bare, poignant memoir about his life as an anthropologist, writer, and photographer circles again and again back to Jane and ends with a shocking resolution. "

-Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mercy of Thin Air and the Keeper of Tales Trilogy

"Gritty investigative reportage becomes page-turning fiction in Don Mitchell's capable hands. Based on a real life and long unsolved killing that the author himself was for a time considered a suspect in, Shibai is a breathless, globe-spanning mystery that also doubles as a love story and a fascinating anthropological investigation into the human heart and mind. Fans of everyone from James Ellroy to Bill Bryson should race out to get themselves a copy of this terrific book."

- Sean Beaudoin, author of Welcome Thieves

"With hypnotic and intimate language, Mitchell shares a deeply-personal story that spans decades and continents and explores the nature of self, of memory, of love, and most importantly of truth. In an age where reality itself is under attack, Shibai reminds us that while facts are never subjective, the way we react to them can alter the course of our lives forever."

-Richard Cox, author of House of the Rising Sun.