Author: 桐野夏生 (Natsuo Kirino) (1997)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★★
I don’t think I’ve read such an intense, gritty thriller before. Natsuo Kirino does not hesitate for one second to shock us; she refuses to go easy. Set in Tokyo and the surrounding cities, the plot follows four middle-aged women who work from midnight to 5 am in a bento factory. They live tough lives; one has trouble connecting with her husband and son, one is forced to deal with a persistent loan shark, one is burdened with a cranky mother-in-law, one is left hopeless when her husband uses up their entire savings. It is this very last woman who, on the spur of the moment, murders her husband out of willful hatred. She has no one to turn to but her three colleagues, who proceed to help her in an extremely morbid way that is unimaginable. All four of them find themselves caught in an intricate web of murder, deceit and treachery.
OUT is not an easy read, but it is a compelling one. The realism of the story leaves such an impression that I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happened. The author does well to eloquently describe the day-to-day activities as well as the locations where the events take place; for myself, who can immediately envision life in Tokyo, it was horrifying. The turn of events played out intelligently as well; it is a well-crafted mystery. The only drawback was the second half, where things began to swirl out of hand, losing its credibility, if only for a bit. Despite the author leaning towards a more dramatic finale – I would have liked for a smarter unfolding of the answers, and I could not accept Masako’s wish at the end – it was still thrilling to read.
Ultimately, OUT will have you contemplating, whether you like it or not, on the inhumanity of people just like you and me. To what extent of evil are we capable of? Where is the line we must draw between right and wrong? What happens when each individual’s ethical philosophies clash with each other? All these questions and more are addressed in this disturbing, hair-raising and solid crime novel.