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All She Was Worth

All She Was Worth

4.3 3
by Miyuki Miyabe

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Here is a deftly written thriller that is also a "deep and moody" (NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW) journey through the dark side of Japan's consumer-crazed society. Ordinary people plunge into insurmountable personal debt and fall prey to dangerous webs of underground creditors-so dangerous, in fact, that murder may be the only way out. A beautiful young woman vanishes


Here is a deftly written thriller that is also a "deep and moody" (NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW) journey through the dark side of Japan's consumer-crazed society. Ordinary people plunge into insurmountable personal debt and fall prey to dangerous webs of underground creditors-so dangerous, in fact, that murder may be the only way out. A beautiful young woman vanishes, and the detective quickly finds she is not whom she claims to be. Is she a victim, a killer, or both? In a country that tracks its citizens at every turn, how can two women claim the same identity and then disappear without a trace?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The horror in this beautifully fashioned tale of stolen identity lies not in the cold-blooded crimes but in the motive-a desperate hunger for consumer goods. Shunsuke Honma, a widowed 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector with a 10-year-old son, is on disability leave. The boring cycle of idleness punctuated by painful physical therapy sessions comes to a halt when a nephew asks for Honma's help in finding his missing fiance, whom he knows as Shoko Sekine. As Honma's search intensifies, he realizes the fiance had actually assumed Sekine's identity and possibly killed her. For the American reader, the jewel in this enormously compelling novel is the portrait of working- and middle-class Japanese getting caught in a cycle of astronomical personal debt in order to enjoy the good life. Also eye-opening is Japan's elaborate registry system for keeping track of its citizenry. In order to become Shoko Sekine, the impostor had to perpetrate an ingeniously elaborate series of hoaxes and lies. Honma is tenacious, methodical, an attentive listener with a retentive memory and the ability to connect disparate bits of information. The trail takes him back through the real Sekine's history and into the life of the other woman, whose family ran afoul of vicious loan sharks. Miyabe drives her complex plot with spare prose, combining expert pacing and psychological nuance to ultimately haunting effect. (Feb.) FYI: All She Was worth was named Best Novel of the year and Best Mystery for 1992 in Japan.
Library Journal
This popular Japanese writer's work, translated admirably well, offers finely detailed narrative, Tokyo backdrops, and an approachable police detective. Shunsuke Honma, the 42-year-old investigator, looks for a young woman while recuperating from a gunshot wound. Honma soon discovers that a relative's missing fiance had more to hide than a bankruptcy in her past: she assumed another woman's identity and may have killed to do so. Honma struggles with this unofficial job, with his young son, and with self-doubt-all of which add subtle complication and psychological depth to a masterful plot. Super work from an award-winning author.
Kirkus Reviews
In preparation for his marriage to Shoko Sekine, Jun Kurisaka urges her to apply for a credit card in her own name. But when the application comes back refused, with a notation that all the major credit companies have blacklisted the applicant because of the consumer debt that led to her bankruptcy back in 1987, Shoko stammers, blanches, and next day runs out on her fiancé. Why did she act so shocked? Jun asks his uncle, Shunsuke Honma, a Tokyo homicide inspector conveniently on sick leave with a bullet wound. Honma's reluctant conclusion: because Shoko didn't know about her own bankruptcy—because she wasn't really Shoko Sekine at all but an impostor who'd assumed her identity. But this answer leaves Honma with a dozen more disturbing questions. How could an impostor have known enough about Shoko to take over her life so easily? If she knew her so well, why didn't she know about the bankruptcy? What's become of the real Shoko—and of the woman who just stepped out of her shoes as lightly as she stepped into them three years ago? And answering these questions will put sedate Honma in turn in the impostor's shoes, as he backtracks on her trail and uncovers a dark parable of Japan's frantic race toward an Americanized consumer economy.

Miyabe's first English translation was named Best Mystery of 1992 in Japan. Fans of Ross Macdonald and Julian Symons will have no trouble seeing why.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.68(d)
720L (what's this?)

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All She Was Worth 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All She Was Worth, by Miyuki Miyabe, is a surprisingly touching, yet harrowing page-turner. The author appeals to those who enjoy a good crime, murder-mystery story, while fulfilling her objectives of both entertaining and teaching the audience of some of Japan¿s serious social issues which in this case is a severe consumer-debt problem. The author does a fantastic job of fulfilling the entertainment objective. The characters are interesting, believable, and all fulfill their roles nicely. The book is so entertaining because it centers on a missing person, which will satisfy the crime lover¿s need, yet it also will appeal to those interested in learning a bit more about Japan¿s problems as a country. These problems are exposed by the author by having a lawyer give detailed explanations of how individuals in Japan are getting themselves into serious consumer-debt problems, and many readers will be able to relate to the social issues that are taking place. For those who like murder mysteries, and crime books, this is a great read. The extra bonus with this novel is you learn a little about Japanese culture, and a great deal about social issues in Japan, while getting your fix of entertainment in the crime area. The book moves really quickly in the beginning, but can seem to drag on a bit when exposing the consumer-debt problems. But for those who are interested in learning of these social issues, you will not be disappointed. I would give this book 4 starts out of 5 as it is surprisingly entertaining, and kept me up reading late at night wondering what was going to happen next. The book is just under three-hundred pages, making it a satisfying, and not too long of a novel. It is also important to note that this novel throws in a good deal of family issues along the way. This is done with the main character¿s struggle in being a single parent, while juggling a career at the same time. The sections of the book that deal with family issues are another portion of this novel that many of its readers will easily be able to relate to. Lastly, the novel introduces many colorful characters along the way, who each bring something special to the reading. It seems every character in this novel has a purpose, and the characters are interesting, and easy to remember. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the book the mystery it is intended to be, while educating the reader along the way. Having read several books of different cultures, this book by far was my favorite. Perhaps what was most refreshing about it was that for a translated novel, it read extremely smoothly and I never once had to back-track to figure out what was said or what was going on. I highly recommend this book, and it has made me want to seek out other novels this author has written. I believe this book will find it has a permanent home on my bookshelf now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having recently purchased the book for a college class on Japanese literature in translation, I was extremely surprised and pleased to find that this was the kind of book I would pick up on my own. Ms. Miyabe paints a rather intriguing picture of how hard it would be to disappear in the Japanese society. Which only makes the book that much more interesting that this 'Sekine Shoko' has managed to do just that: disappear. I won't reveal any plot spoilers or anything like that. I just wanted to leave my honest, if biased opinion. ^_^
Anonymous More than 1 year ago