Synopses & Reviews
A shocking thriller from one of Japan's most lauded female mystery writers.
Nothing in the sometimes hazy history of Japanese literature prepares us for the stark, tension-filled, plot-driven realism of Natsuo Kirino's award-winning mystery Out, a work that took the Japanese literary scene by storm and continues to haunt the popular consciousness as a recently released major motion picture submitted for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Kirino's novel tells a story of random violence in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches, brutally strangles her dead-beat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.
The ringleader, Masako Katori, emerges at the emotional heart of Out and as one of the shrewdest, most clear-eyed creations in recent Japanese fiction. Her own search for a way "out" of the straitjacket of a dead-end life leads her, too, to take drastic action.
The complex yet riveting narrative seamlessly combines a convincing glimpse into the grimy world of Japan's yakuza with a brilliant portrayal of the psychology of a violent crime and the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse between seasoned detectives and a group of clever but inexperienced criminals. Kinno has mastered a "Thelma and Louise" kind of graveyard humor that illuminates her stunning evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extremes and the friendship that bolsters them in the aftermath.
Out shows its author to be Japan's finest mystery writer as well as one of the most astute observers of contemporary society, revealing, in the course of its gripping pages, the fears, hopes, and obsessions that drive a complex country.
"Natsuo Kirino's Out is truly a universal tale, meaning a truly multiculturally applicable novel, meaning one that will be understood anywhere in the world where there are loan sharks, illegal casinos, and middle-aged working-class women toiling like galley slaves on the night shift in grueling dead-end assembly-line jobs." Greg Tate, Village Voice
"Intricately constructed, like the assembly of a mosaic, stone by stone. Even the minor characters a loan shark, a Brazilian Japanese are vivid and memorable." Asahi Shimbun
"One of the most popular authors in Japan known as 'the reigning queen of crime fiction.'" International Herald Tribune
"There are few authors who are willing to probe deep into the innards of modern society and write about what they find there. This novel is proof that Ms. Kirino is one of them." Hokkaido Shimbun
"Grimly satisfying...like no one you've ever read before." Kirkus Reviews
"Ingenious." Shukan Asahi
"The gritty realism...comes across with pungent force." Publishers Weekly
"Finally, a masterpiece in this genre....Whereas the lead characters in most crime fiction are outlaws, here is a novel that realistically shows how ordinary people can be drawn into committing brutal crimes." Prize jury, Mystery Writers of Japan
"Out will remain in the memory of readers as THE pick of the crop of Japanese mysteries. There is terrific energy in it, from start to finish." Mainichi Shimbun
"Brings the mystery thriller to new levels of intensity and realism....Out has great plot twists, vigor, and an ending that would make Hannibal Lecter smile." Library Journal (starred review)
A truly shocking thriller that gripped the nation from Japan's top female crime writer.
was awarded the Grand Prix of the Mystery Writers of Japan in 1997-the Asian equivalent of an Edgar.
It is a dynamic example of the work of a new breed of Asian women writers excelling in the smart, hard-nosed, well-written, and realistically plotted mystery novel. Kirino' crime story can stand comparison with the work of other top-notch Western women writers in this genre, like Sarah Paretsky and Ruth Rendell.
The story-though a bare summary makes it seem merely brutal and bloodthirsty, when it is much more than that-focuses on four women who work together in a lunch-box factory in the suburbs of Tokyo. One of them suffers from spouse abuse and, unable to take it any longer, murders her husband and appeals to her co-workers to help her dispose of the corpse. One of these friends---the brain behind the coverup-after cutting up the body in the bathroom of her house, has the other two dump it as garbage. The money from the man's life insurance is then divided among them. But this is only the beginning. The successful, unpremeditated crime and the rewards it brings are the seed of other, premeditated schemes, escalating from one localized use of violence to a rash of similar deeds, with unpredictable outcomes for the women behind them.
As a study in the psychology of domestic repression and the dynamics of violent crime, OUT works on several levels, gripping the reader from its smoldering beginning to the fireburst of its finale.
In hardcover in its original language it sold over 300,000 copies, and a movie version will have its premiere in Tokyo at the end of 2002, with international distribution under discussion.
About the Author
Natsuo Kirino, born in 1951, quickly established a reputation in her own country as one of a rare breed of mystery writer whose work goes well beyond the conventional crime novel. This fact has been demonstrated by her winning not only Japan's top mystery award for Out
in 1998 but one of its major literary awards the Naoki Prize in 1999, for Soft Cheeks
(to be published in English). Several of her books have also been turned into full-scale movies. The hugely successful Out
is the first of her novels to appear in English.
Stephen Snyder, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is known for his excellent translations of contemporary Japanese fiction: among them, Ryu Murakami's Coin Locker Babies and Miri Yu's Gold Rush.