Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out - Natsuo Kirino

Masako, Yayoi, Yoshie and Kuniko work the night shift at a boxed-lunch factory in the Tokyo suburbs, creating thousands of ready-made meals each day.
Despite their differences in age and social standing, the women have quite a bit in common- each burdened with difficult relationships, financial woes and familial pressures. While working in the factory isn’t the most social of jobs, the women are able to form a tentative friendship, which helps to break up the gruelling monotony of the production line, and allows them to vent their frustrations with one another.
One day, driven by anger and an intense hatred of her gambling, philandering husband Kenji, Yayoi finally snaps and strangles him to death. Not knowing who else to turn to, Yayoi calls Masako and begs for her help in disposing of the body.
For reasons that even she’s unsure of, Masako agrees, and enlists the help of the others to dismember and dispose of the body.
Despite their care in making sure Kenji’s body disappears for good, some of his remains are discovered in a local park, and soon police are looking for suspects in his murder case.
But the women have more to worry about than detectives, when they learn that a yakuza-connected loan shark has discovered their secret and is threatening to expose them unless they meet his demands. Worse still, a nightclub owner, who the police wrongly accuse of Kenji’s murder, is out for revenge after he loses everything. With his business destroyed and the terrible secret from his past revealed, he is determined to find the real culprits and make them suffer.
Can Masako, Yayoi and the others find a way to distance themselves from the crimes they have committed? Or will they face the ultimate punishment for what they have done? Their own deaths…

What I gained from reading this book:
Appearances can be deceiving, and this is shown throughout the entire novel.
To the public, Yayoi appears to be the innocent housewife- worrying about, and then grieving for her murdered husband- when it’s a known fact to us, the readers, that she killed him in a fit of rage. Masako acts as a protector to Yayoi and the others but she has reached a plateau in her life and finds herself yearning for something, although she has no idea what. Kuniko has a reputation for wearing expensive labels and driving a flashy car, but she’s heavily in debt and struggles financially. Yoshie struggles to deal with her difficult life, yet she represents herself as a model worker at the boxed-lunch factory. Satake has a cool persona in his club, but inside he is hiding a terrible secret from his past as a former yakuza mobster.
There are many more secrets, hidden by many more characters, but my point is that while you think you might know someone intimately, there is always a secret hiding behind the persona. In this novel, most of the secrets are revealed in time, and perceptions are changed because of them, much the same as in real life.

The characters in Out are well-developed and you can’t help but get drawn into their lives and the dramas they face. There are so many stories inexplicably linked through the murderous actions of one person- Yayoi- and it’s interesting to see how the whole novel comes together because of her need to retaliate against her husband’s gambling and infidelity.

I have to admit that the ending of this novel kind of threw me. I definitely wasn’t expecting the scenario that takes place, and I’m not sure I can really comprehend the sudden turnaround of some of the characters.
However, while I’m not really a fan of the ending, that’s just my opinion.
You’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean about its conclusion, and form your own judgment.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Crime/ Thriller

Recommended for: Fans of foreign crime writers

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:


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