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Natsuo Kirino, born in 1951, quickly established a reputation in her country as one of a rare breed of mystery writers whose work goes well beyond the conventional crime novel. This fact has been demonstrated by her winning not only the Grand Prix for Crime Fiction in Japan for Out in 1998, but one of its major literary awards--the Naoki Prize--for Soft Cheeks (which has not yet been published in English), in 1999. Several of her books have also been turned into feature movies. Out was the first of her novels to appear in English and was nominated for an Edgar Award.TRANSLATOR: Rebecca L. Copeland, professor of Japanese literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was born in Fukuoka, Japan, the daughter of American missionaries. She received her Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from Columbia University in 1986. She has published numerous scholarly studies on and translations of modern Japanese women's writing.
Kirino (Out) plumbs the murky depths of troubled women's minds with mixed results. The murder of two prostitutes, both of whom graduated from the same prestigious high school, has Tokyo abuzz with curiosity. The unnamed narrator, whose sister was one of the victims, tries to explain how the women could have met an untimely end, relying on her own reflections as well as the deceased's letters and diaries. The title is definitely apt, and readers who enjoy psychological horror tales might well relish the sordid revelations that serve as Kirino's critique of contemporary Japan. For many readers, however, the stream of ugliness (which includes high school bullying, eating disorders, and an entire phalanx of dysfunctional relatives) could grow wearying, as Kirino hammers home the effects at the cost of fully exploring the causes. Structurally, the novel is sound, but the characters' voices are nearly indistinguishable, and their speeches sometimes border on the didactic. The overall effect, while both ambitious and, yes, grotesque, is ultimately less satisfying than the author's previous work. An optional purchase for larger fiction collections.-Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Readers with a taste for ambiguity and oddball characters will enjoy this twisted novel of suspense from Japanese author Kirino (Out). The Apartment Serial Murders case, which involved the brutal killings of two Tokyo prostitutes, has gripped the country, leading to the arrest of a Chinese immigrant, Zhang Zhe-zhong, for the crimes. Strangely, Zhang freely admits to murdering the first victim, Yuriko Hirata, but denies the near-identical slaying 10 months later of Kazue Sato. The events leading to the killings are related from a variety of perspectives-that of Yuriko's unnamed older sister, bitterly jealous of her sibling's good looks; of each victim; and of the accused. Unusual connections-for example, Kazue was a classmate of the older sister-cast doubt on the veracity of individual narrators. This mesmerizing tale of betrayal reveals some sobering truths about Japan's social hierarchy. 4-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"Vengefully mesmerizing. . . . Kirino turns an unerring eye toward the vicious razors of the adolescent female mind." --San Francisco Chronicle "Kirino helps us aficionados of crime fiction imagine the kind of novels James M. Cain might have written if he had been a Japanese feminist. . . . Emotionally harrowing." --Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air (NPR) "A layered exploration of the human psyche, of the conflict inherent in need and desire, shame and humiliation. . . . A powerful study of people humbled at the altar of superficial values." --The Philadelphia Inquirer "Kirino provides an energized thrill ride as she also examines the sometimes-stifling stranglehold of Japan's social hierarchy, especially for women." --Seattle Post-Intelligencer