OUT 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.
|Product dimensions:||9.19(w) x 6.38(h) x 1.31(d)|
About the Author
NATSUO KIRINO was born in Japan in 1951. Her career as a writer began with comics and pulp fiction, but as soon as her serious mystery novels started to appear, they attracted a huge readership. These by now have won her all the top mystery awards in her country, and two have been turned into full-scale movies. OUT is her first to appear in English.
Read an Excerpt
She got to the parking lot earlier than usual. The thick, damp July darkness engulfed her as she stepped out of the car. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity, but the night seemed especially black and heavy. Feeling a bit short of breath, Masako Katori looked up at the starless night sky. Her skin, which had been cool and dry in the air-conditioned car, began to feel sticky. Mixed in with the exhaust fumes from the Shin-Oume Expressway, she could smell the faint odor of deep-fried food, the odor of the boxed-lunch factory where she was going to work.
"I want to go home." The moment the smell hit her, the words came into her head. She didn't know exactly what home it was she wanted to go to, certainly not the one she'd just left. But why didn't she want to go back there? And where did she want to go? She felt lost.
From midnight until five-thirty without a break, she had to stand at the conveyor belt making boxed lunches. For a part-time job, the pay was good, but the work was backbreaking. More than once, when she was feeling unwell, she'd been stopped here in the parking lot by the thought of the hard shift ahead. But this was different, this feeling of aimlessness. As she always did at this moment, she lit a cigarette, but tonight she realized for the first time that she did it to cover the smell of the factory.
The boxed-lunch factory was in the middle of the Musashi-Murayama district, facing a road that was lined with the gray wall of a large automobile plant. Otherwise, the area was given over to dusty fields and a cluster of small auto repair shops. The land was flat and the sky stretched in every direction. The parking lot was a three-minute walk from Masako's workplace, beyond another factory, now abandoned. It was no more than a bare lot that had been roughly graded. The parking spaces had once been marked off with strips of tape, but dust had long since made them almost invisible. The employees' cars were parked at random angles across the lot. It was a place where no one would be likely to notice someone hiding in the grass or behind a car. The whole effect was somehow sinister, and Masako glanced around nervously as she locked the car.
She heard the sound of tires, and for an instant the overgrown summer grass that bordered the lot shone in the yellow headlights. A green Volkswagen Golf cabriolet, top down, drove into the lot, and her plump co-worker, Kuniko Jonouchi, nodded from the driver's seat.
"Sorry I'm late," she said, pulling the car into the space next to Masako's faded red Corolla. Her driving seemed careless, and she made more noise than necessary putting on the hand brake and closing the car door. Everything about her was shrill and gaudy. Masako stubbed out her cigarette with the toe of her sneaker.
"Nice car," she said. The subject of Kuniko's car had come up a number of times at the factory.
"You really think so?" Kuniko said, sticking out her tongue in pleasure at the compliment. "But it's got me up to my eyes in debt." Masako gave a noncommittal laugh. The car didn't seem to be the only source of Kuniko's debts. She had nothing but designer accessories, and her clothes were obviously expensive.
"Let's go," Masako said. Sometime after the New Year, she'd begun to hear talk of a strange man hanging around the road that led from the parking lot to the factory. And then several of the part-timers had reported being pulled into the shadows and assaulted before barely escaping; so the company had just issued a warning that the women should walk in groups. They set off through the summer darkness along the unpaved, ill-lit road. On the right was a ragged line of apartment blocks and farmhouses with large gardens-not particularly appealing but at least a sign of life in the area. On the left, beyond an overgrown ditch, was a lonely row of abandoned buildings: an older boxed-lunch factory, a derelict bowling alley. The women who had fallen victim to the attacker had told of being dragged in among these deserted buildings, and so Masako kept careful watch as she and Kuniko hurried along.
From one of the apartment houses on the right, they could hear a man and woman arguing in Portuguese; more than likely they worked at the factory. In addition to the housewives who worked part-time, the factory employed a large number of Brazilians, both native-born and those of Japanese descent, many of them married couples.
"Everybody's saying that the pervert is probably a Brazilian," said Kuniko, frowning into the darkness. Masako walked on without answering. It didn't make much difference where the man was from, she thought, there was no cure for the kind of depression that came from working in that factory. The women would just have to protect themselves as best they could. "They say he's a big, strong man, that he grabs the women and holds them without saying a word." Something in Kuniko's tone betrayed a hint of longing. Masako felt that Kuniko was somehow blocked, closed off, like a thick cloud cover obscuring the stars at night. From behind them came the sound of squeaking bicycle brakes, and when they turned nervously to look, they found an older woman straddling her bike.
"So, it's you two," she said. "Hi." It was Yoshie Azuma. She was a widow in her late fifties, with nimble fingers that made her the fastest worker on the line. The other women had taken to calling her "Skipper" out of grudging respect.
"Ah, the Skipper. Good morning," Masako said, sounding relieved. Kuniko said nothing but dropped back a step.
"Don't you start calling me that, too," said Yoshie, but she seemed secretly pleased with the name. Climbing off her bike, she fell in step with the other two. She was small but solidly built in a low-slung way that seemed ideally suited to physical labor. Yet her face was fine-featured and pale, floating up now almost seductively out of the darkness. It was perhaps this contradiction that made her seem unhappy, somehow unfortunate. "I suppose you're walking together because of the fuss they've been making about that pervert," she said.
"That's right," said Masako. "Kuniko's still young enough to be in danger." Kuniko giggled. She was twenty-nine. Yoshie skirted a puddle that was glimmering in the dim light and turned to look at Masako.
"You're still in the running yourself," she said. "You're what, forty-three?"
"Don't be silly," Masako said, suppressing a laugh. The compliment made her feel self-conscious in a way she rarely did anymore.
"Then you're all dried up, are you? Cold and dry?" Yoshie's tone was teasing, but it seemed to Masako that she'd hit the nail on the head. She did feel cold and dry, almost reptilian, as she slithered along now.
"But aren't you a bit later than usual today?" she said, to change the subject.
"Oh, Granny's been a little difficult." Yoshie frowned and fell silent. She was caring for her bedridden mother-in-law at home. Masako stared straight ahead, deciding to avoid any more questions. As they cleared the row of deserted buildings on the left, they came upon several of the white trucks that delivered the boxed lunches to convenience stores across the city, and beyond the trucks loomed the factory itself, shining dimly in the fluorescent light like a nightless city.
They waited while Yoshie went to park her bike in the racks next to the factory, and then climbed the green, Astroturf-covered stairs that led up the side of the building. The entrance was on the second floor. To the right was the office, and down the corridor was the workers' rest area and the locker rooms. The factory itself was on the ground floor, so once they'd changed, they would make their way downstairs. Shoes had to be removed on the red synthetic carpet at the factory entrance. The color of the carpet was washed out under the fluorescent lights, making the hallway seem rather gloomy. The complexions of the women around her took on a dark cast to match the decor, and as she looked at her weary companions, Masako wondered if she looked as bad herself. Komada, the tight-lipped company health inspector, was stationed in front of the cubbyholes where they stored their shoes, and as each woman walked by, she rubbed her back with a spool of sticky tape to remove any dust or dirt she might be bringing in.
They entered the large tatami-mat room that served as the employees' lounge. Small groups of people were chatting here and there, having already changed into their white uniforms. They sipped tea or munched snacks as they waited for work to begin, while a few had found spots in the corner to lie down for a quick nap. Of the nearly one hundred workers on the night shift, about a third were Brazilian, and of these roughly half were men. And since it was the middle of the summer holidays, the number of student workers had increased somewhat; still, the great majority of the employees were part-timers, housewives in their forties or fifties.
The three women exchanged nods with friends as they made their way toward the changing room, but then they noticed Yayoi Yamamoto sitting alone in a corner. She looked up at them as they approached, but no smile came to her face and she remained slumped on the tatami.
"Morning," Masako said to her, and at last she smiled faintly for a moment. "You look exhausted." Yayoi nodded weakly and gave them a despondent look but still didn't answer. Yayoi was the best-looking of the four women -- in fact, she was the most attractive woman on the night shift. Her face was almost flawless, with a broad forehead and a nice balance between the eyes and the brow, an upturned nose and full lips. Her body, too, though petite, was perfect. Her looks were so conspicuous at the factory that a number of women had taken to bullying her, though others were nice to her. Masako had adopted the role of her protector, perhaps because the two of them were so different. While Masako herself did her best to live her life according to reason and common sense, Yayoi seemed to be wandering through the world dragging a good deal of emotional baggage with her. Almost unconsciously, she held on to all sorts of gloomy stuff she might otherwise have left behind, playing out the role of the pretty woman taken up with her own cluttered and constantly changing feelings.
"What's up?" asked Yoshie, thumping her on the shoulder with a rough, red hand. "You look bad." Yayoi gave a violent start and Yoshie turned toward Masako, who signaled the other two to go on without her and sat down in front of Yayoi.
"Are you sick?" she asked.
"No, it's nothing."
"Did you have another fight with your husband?"
"I'd be happier if he were still even willing to fight with me," she said glumly, her bleary eyes staring off at some point beyond Masako. Realizing they would have to start work soon, Masako began gathering her hair into a bun.
"What happened?" she said.
"I'll tell you later," said Yayoi.
"Why not now?" Masako urged, glancing at the clock on the wall.
"No, later. It's a long story." A look of rage appeared on Yayoi's face for an instant, then vanished. Giving up the effort, Masako rose to go.
"Okay," she said. She hurried into the changing room to find her uniform. The place was a "room" in name only, separated from the lounge by no more than a curtain. On the wall were crowded rows of sturdy hangers, like those at a department store sale. In the section for the daytime employees, the soiled white uniforms hung in tight clusters, while the space reserved for the night shift was bright with multicolored street clothes.
"We'll see you down there," said Yoshie as she and Kuniko left the lounge. It was time to punch in. According to the rules, they had to punch the time clock between 11:45 and midnight and then wait downstairs at the entrance to the factory floor.
Masako pulled her hanger from the bar. It held a white gown with a zipper down the front and a pair of work pants with elastic at the waist. She quickly slipped the gown over her shoulders and, noting the position of the men in the room, pulled off her jeans, then stepped into the work pants. There was no separate changing room for the men, and though she'd been working here nearly two years she still couldn't get used to the arrangement.
After slipping a black net over the hair she'd already gathered with a barrette, she covered her head with the paper hat they all wore, more like a shower cap than a real hat. Someone had nicknamed them "locusts" for their bug-like shape. She picked up a clear plastic apron and left the changing room, only to find Yayoi still sitting where she'd left her, as if she had nothing better to do.
"Hey! Better get a move on," she said, but when she saw how slow she was to get up, she was more worried than bothered. Almost all the other employees had already left the lounge; only a few Brazilian men still lingered on the tatami. They were leaning against the wall smoking, their thick legs thrown out in front of them.
"Morning," said one of them, raising a hand that was still wrapped around a cigarette butt. Masako nodded, giving him a thin smile. The name tag on his chest said "Kazuo Miyamori," but Masako couldn't help thinking how foreign he looked, with his darkish skin, caved-in face, and protruding forehead. She imagined he did one of the more physical jobs, such as shuttling rice to the automated feeder. "Good morning," he said, this time to Yayoi, though she was too distracted to look at him. He seemed disappointed, but then this kind of thing happened often enough in this cold, unfriendly workplace.
They went into the toilet for a moment before donning their masks and aprons. Hands were rubbed raw with scrubbing brushes and then disinfected. They punched their time cards, stepped into the white work shoes, and were checked once more by the health inspector, this time stationed by the stairs that led down to the plant. Once again Komada rubbed their backs with the tape roller while carefully inspecting their fingernails and hands.
"No cuts?" Even the smallest scratch on a finger meant you were ineligible for any job that involved touching food. Masako and Yayoi held up their hands for inspection. Yayoi seemed about to collapse as she stood waiting for the test to end.
"Are you all right?" Masako asked.
"Yes, I guess," said Yayoi.
"Your kids okay?"
"Unh. . . ," she answered vaguely. Masako looked over at her again, but the hat and mask concealed everything but her listless eyes. Yayoi seemed oblivious to Masako's stare.
The sharp blast of cold air mixed with the odors of various foods made the descent into the factory seem like stepping into a huge refrigerator. A dull chill came creeping up through their shoes from the concrete floor. Even in summer, the factory was icy.
At the bottom of the stairs they joined the other workers waiting to enter. Yoshie and Kuniko, who were further up in the line, turned to signal to them. The four women always worked together and tried to help each other out, otherwise the job would have been even tougher.
The door opened and the workers filed in. They washed again up to the elbows, and their ankle-length aprons were disinfected. By the time Yayoi and Masako finished washing and moved onto the factory floor, the other women had already begun preparations at the conveyor belt.
"Hurry up!" Yoshie scolded Masako. "Nakayama's coming." Nakayama was the foreman on the night shift. He was young, just over thirty, with a foul mouth and an obsession with quotas that earned him the hatred of the part-timers.
"Sorry!" said Masako, picking up her disposable gloves and sterile towel and bringing a set for Yayoi as well. As she stuffed them into her hands, Yayoi looked down at them as if just realizing she was at work.
"Pull yourself together," Masako told her.
"Thanks," Yayoi murmured. As they took their places toward the front of the line, Yoshie showed them the instructions for the day.
"We're starting with curry lunches. Twelve hundred of them. I'll take rice, and you work boxes, okay?" "Rice" meant being at the head of the line as the linchpin of the whole process, the one who determined the speed of the line. Yoshie, who was particularly good at it, always volunteered for rice duty, while Masako took the job of handing her the containers. As she began arranging the plastic boxes, she turned to look at Yayoi. She had moved too slowly to get the easiest job of spooning on the curry. Kuniko, who had managed to get one of these positions, looked back at her and shrugged. They could try to look out for her, she seemed to say, but if she couldn't manage this much for herself, what could they do?
"What's up with her?" Yoshie asked, frowning toward Yayoi. "Is she sick?" Masako shook her head but said nothing. Yayoi did seem unusually distracted. Masako watched as she wandered away from the line, where there were no places left, and headed around toward the position for smoothing the rice, a particularly hard job. Suppressing the urge to get any sharper with her, she whispered to Yayoi as she approached:
"That's hard work."
"Hurry up and get started," the foreman barked, striding toward them. "What the hell are you doing?" His expression was obscured by the brim of his work cap, but his small eyes were bright with menace behind his glasses.
"Guess who's here," Yoshie muttered.
"The asshole," Masako hissed, furious at Nakayama's tone of voice. She detested this overbearing foreman.
"I was told to smooth the rice," a woman who appeared to be new said timidly. "What do I do?"
"You stand here and level it off after I put it in," Yoshie said in a tone that was pleasant by her standards. "Then push it along for the curry. She'll be doing exactly the same thing, so just watch her," she added, pointing at Yayoi on the other side of the line.
"I see," said the newcomer, who apparently still didn't understand and continued to stare about her in bewilderment. But Yoshie, who didn't beat about the bush, flipped the switch on the conveyor belt. As it groaned to life, Masako noted that she had set the speed a bit faster than normal. Perhaps because everyone seemed a bit slow today, she was determined to speed things up.
Masako began passing the containers to Yoshie with a practiced hand. A perfect square of rice emerged from the mouth of the rice dispenser and flopped into the container that Yoshie held beneath it. She then quickly weighed each portion on the scale next to her and sent it on down the line with a flourish.
Beyond Yoshie was a long line of workers: one to even out the rice, one to add the curry sauce, one to slice the deep-fried chicken, another to lay it on top of the curry. Then someone to measure out the pickles into their cup, someone to add the plastic lid, someone to tape on a spoon, and finally someone to place the seal on the box. Each meal made its way down the line, assembled in so many small increments, until at last a curry lunch was complete.
This was the way the shift always began. Masako glanced around at the clock on the wall. Barely five after twelve. Still five and a half hours of standing on the cold concrete floor. They had to take turns going to the bathroom, one at a time, with a replacement filling in on the line. You had to announce that you wanted to go and then wait your turn, which sometimes took as long as two hours in coming. They'd discovered long ago that to make the job as bearable as possible meant not only looking out for themselves but also working together as a team. This was the secret to lasting at a place like this without ruining your health.
About an hour into the shift, they began to hear sounds of distress from the new woman. Almost immediately, efficiency began dropping on the line and they had to cut the pace. Masako noticed that Yayoi, trying to help out, had begun reaching across to take some of the newcomer's boxes, though today she'd seemed hardly able to handle her own. The veterans on the line all knew that smoothing the rice was a particularly tough job since it had cooled into a hard lump by the time it left the machine. It took a good deal of strength in the wrists and fingers to flatten the little squares of cold, compact rice in the few seconds the box was in front of you, and the half-stooping position made it hard on the back. After about an hour of this, pain would be shooting from your spine through your shoulders, and it became difficult to lift your arms. Which was precisely why the work was often left to unsuspecting beginners -- though at the moment, Yayoi, who was anything but a beginner, was hard at work at the station, with a sullen but resigned look on her face.
At last they were finished with the twelve hundred curry lunches. The women on the line cleaned the conveyor and quickly moved to another station for their next assignment: two thousand special "Lunch of Champions" boxes. The "Lunch of Champions" had more components than the curry lunches, so the line was longer, filled out by a number of Brazilians.
Yoshie and Masako, as usual, took the rice spots. Kuniko, who was always quick to size up the situation, was saving the easiest job of saucing the fried pork for Yayoi. You took two pieces of pork, one in each hand, dipped them in the sauce, and then placed them in the box, sauced sides together. It was a good station, a bit shielded from the frenzy of the line, something even Yayoi could manage. Masako relaxed a bit and focused on her work.
But just as they had finished with this assignment and were starting to clean up the line, there was an enormous crash as something heavy was knocked over, and everyone turned to look. Yayoi had stumbled against the cauldron full of sauce and fallen flat on her back. The heavy metal lid clattered away, rolling off toward the next conveyor belt, while a sea of viscous brown sauce spread out around them. The floor of the factory was always slick with spattered grease and food, but the workers were all used to the slippery conditions and this sort of accident almost never happened.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Nakayama yelled, descending on them, his face pale with anger. "How could you have spilled all this?!"
"I'm sorry," said Yayoi as some men with mops came running up, "I slipped." She made no move to get up, seeming almost stunned as she sat in the pool of sauce.
"Come on," said Masako, bending over her. "You're getting soaked." As she helped her to her feet, she caught a glimpse of a large, dark bruise on Yayoi's stomach where the shirt of her uniform was pushed up. Was this the reason she seemed so distracted? The contusion was unmistakable on her white stomach, like a mark of Cain. Masako clicked her tongue disapprovingly, but hurried to straighten Yayoi's uniform to hide the bruise from view. There were no spare uniforms to be had, so after a few moments to collect herself, Yayoi was forced to continue work with her back and sleeves covered in sauce. The thick liquid quickly congealed to a brown crust that didn't soak through the cloth, though the smell was overwhelming.
Five-thirty A.M. No overtime today, so the workers made their way back to the second floor. After they had changed into their street clothes, the four women usually bought drinks from the vending machines in the lounge and sat chatting for twenty minutes or so before they headed home.
"You weren't yourself today," said Yoshie, turning to Yayoi. "You okay?" Age and fatigue showed on Yoshie's face, made plain by the hard night's work. Yayoi took a sip of coffee from her paper cup and thought a moment before answering.
"I had a fight with my husband yesterday," she said.
"Nothing special about that, is there?" laughed Yoshie, glancing over at Kuniko with a conspiratorial look. Kuniko's eyes narrowed as she slipped a thin menthol cigarette into her mouth.
"You and Kenji get along, don't you?" she asked in a noncommittal tone. "He takes the kids out all the time, I thought you said."
"Not recently," Yayoi muttered. Masako said nothing but studied Yayoi's face. Once you sat down and held still for a few minutes, the fatigue seemed to work its way through your whole body.
"Life's long, and there are going to be times like this, highs and lows." Yoshie, who was herself a widow, seemed anxious to dismiss the whole discussion with a platitude, but Yayoi's tone turned harsh.
"But he's used up all our savings," she spat out. The others fell silent, startled by this sudden admission.
Masako had lit a cigarette, and as she took a drag she broke the silence. "What did he use it on?"
"Gambling," said Yayoi. "I think he plays baccarat or something."
"But I thought your husband was a pretty reliable guy. Why would he get mixed up in gambling?" Yoshie seemed amazed.
"Don't ask me," Yayoi sighed, shaking her head. "I think there's some place he goes to play, but I don't know much about it."
"How much did you have?" Kuniko asked, unable to conceal her curiosity.
"About five million," Yayoi said, her voice fading to a whisper. Kuniko gulped and for a moment looked almost jealous.
"That's terrible," she muttered.
"And last night he hit me." Showing the anger Masako had seen earlier, Yayoi lifted her T-shirt and displayed the bruise. Yoshie and Kuniko exchanged glances.
"But I bet he's feeling sorry now," said Yoshie in a conciliatory tone. "My husband and I used to fight all the time, and he was a brute. But yours isn't like that, is he?"
"I don't know anymore," Yayoi said, rubbing her stomach.
It was already light outside. The day seemed to be shaping up like the one before it, hot and humid. Yoshie and Yayoi, who commuted on bicycle, said good-bye in front of the factory as Masako and Kuniko headed for the parking lot.
"Not much of a rainy season this year," Masako said as they walked.
"We'll probably have a water shortage," said Kuniko, looking up at the leaden sky. Her face was covered with grease from the night's work.
"If things keep up like this," said Masako.
"What do you think Yayoi's going to do?" Kuniko asked, breaking into a yawn. Masako shrugged. "If it were me, I'd divorce him. Nobody would ask any questions, not after he used up all the savings."
"I suppose so," Masako murmured, but it occurred to her that Yayoi's children were still small, so it wasn't as simple as Kuniko made it sound. They were all heading home, but it seemed that Masako wasn't the only one who wasn't sure where home was. They walked on to the parking lot in silence.
"Good night," Kuniko said as she opened the door of her car.
"Night," Masako answered, never quite sure it sounded right in the morning. Fatigue overtook her as she flopped down into the car, shielding her eyes from the morning glare.
What People are Saying About This
Intricately constructed, like the assembly of a mosaic, stone by stone. Even the minor characters...a lone shark, a Brazilian Japanese...are vivid and memorable.
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.
Stark realism, lit up by flashes of unexpected humor and psychological insight.
There are few authors who are willing to probe deep into the innards of modern society and write about what they find. This novel is proof that Ms. Kirino is one of them.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Natsuo Kirino is a hero. That sounds overly dramatic, I'm sure, but it's true. She boldly goes where most authors shy away from (particularly female authors), and she spares us the sugar-coating and overly-done romance. She gets to the meat of the story and involves us with characters so much like people we ourselves are aquainted with that we start asking ourselves: "what if this was happening to me? What would I do?" I was hooked from the first page and literally sad when the last page ended. Her other works are amazing, but this is the crown jewel. Don't miss this book; not only is it a great thriller/edge of your seat, fast-paced story, it also takes you into the lower class of Japan - a real life look at something most Americans know nothing about. Kirino deserves all the respect in the world for this novel.
Very strange book, but every book I've read by a Japanese author shares this trait. I have to say that it had me going right up until the last few chapters, then the author for some reason really let me down at the end by her decision with what to do with one of the characters. The last chapter didn't seem right and interrupted the flow of the rest of the novel. That said, it was an okay story, very different than anything I've read before.brief plot summary:Out focuses on a group of 4 different women and what they have to put up by virtue of them having to be women. The main characters are Masako, who once worked at a credit union, demanded too much & got ostracized until she quit, then settled into married life with a son & husband who have withdrawn in their own particular fashions; Kuniko who is 33, overweight, & desperately wants to have the best of everything down to her lipstick. She is living with Tetsuya, her live-in partner, who doesn't want a job & just takes off one day no warning. Kuniko is over her head debtwise, and the credit company is breathing down her neck. She applies for jobs meant for younger, prettier women and is laughed off the premises. Next is Yoshie whose husband died earlier, and who is stuck with his mother who is an invalid; she has two daughters Miki & Kazue, who are both just in life for whatever is good for them (while Yoshie is in denial about the younger girl). Finally there is Yayio, who lives with her two small children and a husband who beats her and gambles the money she earns away. All four are friends and work at a factory which manufactures box lunches for sale at supermarkets & convenience stores, etc.The trouble really starts when one of the women kills her husband, then asks one of the others to help her hide the crime. There's a lot more to this than a grisly murder but if I say anything, it will really spoil the story. It was okay; but I can't believe the ending of this book. It was certainly not in keeping with the rest of the book. Overall, pretty good, and while not as good as some of the Japanese books I've read, it was fine.
This is a book that will stick with you for a while - extremely dark, but extremely riveting.
Kirino's first over here stateside. AWESOME. Reminds me of Hitchcock. Take four factory working women, each with a personality and style. One murders her husband, then the rest get involved cutting up and getting rid of the body. What is left to do but open up a business! Social commentary of the role of women in Japanese society interwoven with a great icky story! One of my favorites lately.
Feminism is a somewhat unusual concept in Japan, a country where women traditionally walk several paces behind their husband and the role of wife and mother is very important.The four factory coworkers in Natsuo Kirino's OUT are all hardworking women who have put up with a lot of unhappiness in their marriages and families. When one of them snaps and kills her lazy spendthrift husband in a fit of rage, the others help her hide the body and cover up what happened. While never preachy or sentimental, Kirino's book is a brilliant and disturbing look at the female 99% in Japan.
I almost can¿t believe that I stuck with this ridiculous Japanese thriller through to the ending. I don¿t know whether it was bad writing or bad translation, but the prose was nearly laughable in places. The story felt contrived and one-dimensional, and I really had no sympathy for the characters, or indeed, any understanding of why they did the things they did. What a bad book.
Excellent and powerful thriller, disturbing at times but it's just the kind of novel I couldn't put down. Don't know if I agreed with the psychology behind the novel's climax but I think it has a great and hopeful ending. Great characters, especially the women, unlike in most Japanese literature I've read. I absolutely loved it.
What happens when you cross the line....when you discover a taste for the unthinkable?really rather good, even after having been translated from the Japanese. Had a little difficulty with the names at first,but soon settled. Four Japanese Women, working in a factory, get drawn deeper into crime to cover up their increasingly deperate actions
A gripping page turner, dark & horrific. A side of Japan that I had no idea existed. This book will stay with you long after the last page. Not for the squeamish.
(#26 in the 2005 Book Challenge)I saw this reviewed a while back, and it looked interesting. Apparently, this woman is Japan's leading crime writer, and this is the first of her books to be translated into English. The set up is that four women who work together in a factory become involved with each other when one of them murders her husband. The review made it sound as if it had a Thelma & Louise vibe, the women banding together in the spirit of sisterhood etc etc, but the book was much more noir-y feeling, where the characters seem to find themselves connected to the murder almost through happenstance, and are then gradually pulled into the increasingly unappealing and gritty world of two-bit organized crime. It's difficult to like any of the characters very much at all, but the author still manages to move the story along in such a way that you really are very interested in what is going to happen to them next -- I usually find this challenging if I don't particularly care for the people. The ending was a little over-the-top, IMHO, almost as if the author got to the end and didn't know how else to wrap things up.Grade: B- (I think it would have been more of a B if the translation wasn't a little rough in places)Recommended: I think this would be interesting to avid mystery/crime readers, if for nothing else to see what's big in Japan these days in this genre. WARNING: brief but graphic torture and murder scenes.
I found this book in Time Magazine's "10 Books You Might Have Missed" section in the December '04 or January '05 issues, when looking for a good novel to read. The novel taking place in Japan interested me. These were my thoughts when buying this book.At first I was disappointed that it was a translated work, but my opinion was contrary once I got into it. Stephen Snyder should be credited here for an excellent translation. I didn't read the Japanese version, however the english version stands well on its own.Despite the uniqueness of being set in Japan, it was also nice to read a novel where the lead characters were women. This story exists in many dimensions giving illustration to middle class workers in Japan today, migrate workers, and those criminally inclined.On a humanistic side, I found a major theme being that all of us are good and evil. I didn't care for the author's point of view in presenting those that are bad as heros or heroines. Redemption is honorable but I don't believe it should be emulated.Nevertheless, I think any adult picking up this book will not be disappointed. This novel is rich in content.In ending, I would have to agree with the other LibraryThing prior reviewers (3) in that the ending while not disappointing, was unexpected, and could have been richer.
I loved it. A team of ladies on the night shift at a factory get together to chop up and dispose of the body of the murdered husband of one of them. Their camaraderie dissolves in the aftermath, which includes a new business opportunity of the disposal catagory.
A gripping story set in Tokyo, about four women working the graveyard shift in a boxed lunch factory. Their personal lives aren't pretty, with the likes of an abusive gambling husband, a monster invalid mother-in-law, crippling financial troubles, etc Each of them are seemingly stuck in never-ending cycle of poverty, hardship, and deep discontent. Then one night after being punched in the gut by her husband who just told her that he gambled away their life savings, one of the women makes a split second decision that she's had enough and strangles her him. She asks her colleague at the factory to help her dispose of the body, and pretty soon all four of them are involved.From there the story takes off into a wild spin of often gruesome events involving detectives, dismemberment, loan sharks, perverts, sadists, the yakuza, etc. The author provides a glimpse behind what drives women into committing terrific acts of violence, and how it gets justified afterwards. There's also a lot of insight into the way women relate to each other, and the kind of friendships that that we create. Studies show that there's a difference between why men and women kill, and how they choose to do it. I can get quite hooked on true crime every now and then, delving into the childhoods, behaviors and minds of these seemingly ruthless killers, and the stories of women killers I find fascinating. This book, though a work of fiction, provided me with another glimpse into that world.This book is the first of her novels to be translated into English, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second one, Grotesque. If anybody has read it, let me know what you think. I like the way this woman writes, her literary realism, the feminist commentary, her depiction of the roles women have in contemporary Japanese society, and how this influences their sexuality, relationships and socio-economic affairs. I'm interested to know if it's a theme that carries through in her other novels as well
This is one of the most moving and engrossing crime fiction novels I have read to date.Rather than a straight-up story of crime and consequence, Kirino instead has written two intertwining stories that converge towards the end, one of a group of women beat down by Japanese patriarchy, the other of a fallen Yakuza with a past he'd like to distance himself from. This book is more social commentary than it is a story of criminals. Filial piety, loveless marriage, fiscal irresponsibility, loan sharking, workplace sexism, feminine solidarity, gambling and prostitution are all moving parts in the machine that grabs each character, grinds them up and spits them out.
"... we're all heading straight to hell.""Yes," said Masako ... "It's like riding downhill with no brakes.""You mean, there's no way to stop?""No, you stop all right -- when you crash.""Out" is the story of four women on that downhill ride, crash included. It starts when one of them impulsively kills her husband, who she found out had gambled away all their savings and had become infatuated with a "hostess." The women are more than acquaintances, but definitely less than actual friends. What holds them together is their job, working the nightshift at a factory that makes box lunches. Although they pitch in to help dispose of the body, the consequences drive them apart in different ways.Things get especially sticky when the main suspect in the murder, the man who runs the gambling club where the woman's husband spent his time/money, decides to take his revenge on the real guilty parties -- the four women. He is a true psycho, forever warped by his rape/torture/murder of a young woman some 20 years ago. Kirino does an excellent job of building the tension, and you really do get a feeling of things hurtling out of control as the book goes on. It's written in a modern noir style, without too much fancy language, and appears to be smoothly translated.Recommended.Spoiler alert: I did have a slight quibble with the ending ... when the main woman character, Masako, battles the psycho, she cuts him "from the corner of his astonished eye to the base of his chin." To me, this sounds like she cut his face, yet he quickly bleeds to death from it ... he does say something like "you must have hit an artery," but in his face?
Strange book about very strange human behaviours... It doesn't fit into any reasonable genre sub-division, although it's probably mostly classifies as thriller. Russian edition had a comparison to "Crime & Punishment" on the cover, and it seems fitting in a somewhat twisted manner... Still can't figure the idea of the title "Out" though... Ideas anyone?
This is one of the best reads I've had in a long time. This is my first foray into Japanese literature and it definitely will not be my last. I found it interesting trying to understand the motivations of the main character. It was difficult to dislike anyone in this novel despite the grotesque nature of the crime. The ending, while not your typical happily ever after ending, appealed greatly to my sense of justice. No one came out of it without paying in some way, yet somehow everyone ends up with a better life. I can't wait to start the author's next book, Grotesque!
Too long to do so, but reading this at one sitting was a strong temptation. What happens when ordinary people get caught up in something extraordinarily evil? Read this book and find out.
Great story with an unusual setting! The characters well drawn and so real with their world-weariness and being stuck in their own private hells with no way out. I loved the way that lonely and boring realities and gruesome horror were not so far apart. But there is a social statemement about debt and the desperation causes when normal people have to work so hard to get by. I am looking forward to reading Grotesque.
Out is a novel about a group of Japanese women who each find themselves in different situations. When one of the women accidentally kills her husband, she finds herself looking for a way to dispose of his body. She pursues the help of the fellow women who work the night shift at a box lunch making company. This novel is descriptive and very real. Once the book gets into the thick of the plot, it is exciting and hard to put down. I would recommend this book to people who like action.
American debut of Japanese best seller. 4 women try to cover up murder of bad husband. I couldn't put it down. It's been a few years but still I think of this book when I shop for frozen dinners.
Out by Natsuo Kirino was not on my list of books to read in this week or even in the near future, but while perusing my bookshelves it caught my eye and my attention for the next 2 days. I'm not even sure when I bought this (common condition among book-buying addicts) but I'm glad I did.Written by a popular Japanese crime fiction writer, Out is the story of 4 women who work night shifts together in a Tokyo factory. Yayoi kills her abusive husband then enlists the help of her 3 friends. Masako decides they need to dispose of the body with careful and gruesome planning. The only thing they have in common is their bleak lives and disposing of a body does not insure a life-long bond. What occurs next is a mix of conspiracy, blackmail, corruption, insurance fraud, loan-sharking, gambling, and more violence.I found Out to be gripping, but not just a plot based novel. Kirino takes the reader into the lives of these ordinary women and shows how they can become involved in events they never would have imagined. How far will someone go when pushed, what are we really capable of, and how well do we know ourselves, much less those around us? Out is a phenomenal but very dark, disturbing read. Not recommenced for those that only enjoy light mysteries. It is gritty and thought-provoking. I highly recommend to fans of suspense novels.
[Out] by [[Natsuo Kirino]] is a strange and dark story of four women who meet while working the night shift at a box lunch factory. There's 40-something Masako, stalled in a loveless marriage; shopaholic Kuniko, up to her ears in debt; Yoshoi, widowed and almost 60, struggling to take care of her bedridden mother-in-law and ungrateful daughters; and Yayoi, whose husband has spent all their savings in pursuit of baccarat and a prostitute. Although they are all working this harsh and degrading job for different reasons, they bond into a team of sorts to make the work easier. So, when Yayoi kills her husband, Kenji, in an impulsive rage, she finds herself desparately confiding in Masako who, for reasons she can't explain, agrees to help Yayoi get rid of the body. Soon the other two members of the team become involved, and thus begins the four women's strange descent into crime.Although I found the novel very revealing about a segment of Japan's society that is normally carefully hidden away from the rest of the world, I had trouble understanding the erotic attraction between Satake, the man falsely arrested for Kenji's murder, and Masako. Yet I could identify with Masako and her struggle to find a way beyond the lonely existance of her life. The story, despite its gruesome strangeness, seemed able to portray the life of women on a variety of levels.This is definitely a novel worth reading. My thanks to author Joel Goldman for recommending it as a must read.
You know those books that you can't stop thinking about? The ones that seep into your daydreams at work and into your dreams in bed at night?Out definitely falls into that category. Be forewarned -- this is the antithesis of a pleasant beach read.While I was reading this book, I could literally not shake it from my head. The novel centers on four ordinary women whose lives are dull, mediocre and cash-strapped. When the women take control of their situations for themselves in a grisly matter, they each react in various ways -- some blossom, some harden, some careen out of control. When the victim of their scheme finally catches up to the group, the women meet destinies that seemed unimaginable to them at the book's beginning.Kirino manages to simultaneously repulse and mesmerize the reader, describing perverse violence in an almost loving way. There are passages that are tough to read because of how completely Kirino inhabits the minds of her most violent characters, but the action propels the reader forward and onward to the novel's conclusion.An excellent, thought-provoking, heart-pounding read.
I didnt think much when I picked up this book, truth be told it was something to read during work, however I found it very enthralling. It opened my eyes to sub-culture of Japan - Loan Sharks. Touching upon certain aspects of Japanese life which left me feeling quite empty, the fact these 4 women work nighs making bento boxes on a production line with no achievements, soon dragged into the crime underworld by one fateful mistake. Very light on the romance which would have ruined it for me. Morbid descriptions and a very realistic style of writing, I couldnt put it down til I was done.