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All She Was Worth Paperback – 9 Feb 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (9 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752815555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752815558
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ on 10 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. In Japan, Miyabe is a highly successful writer whose novels have been adapted into 10 films as well. Here she is only barely known, represented only by a single detective story - All She Was Worth.
The novel tells the story of Shinsuke Honma, a middle-aged police detective who is off duty while recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. The enforced inactivity has begun to wear thin on him, and a request from a distant relative to investigate the disappearance of his fiancée - Shoko Sekine tempts him into a freelance investigation that is part meticulous investigation and part social commentary. Shoko disappeared when it was revealed that she had gone through a personal bankruptcy. Honma discovers layer after layer of misdirection and subterfuge - the disappearance is only a reflection of the grim truth.
The telling of the story reveals many of the inherent differences between Japanese and Western writing, even as it pares away at a social problem - easy credit and indebtedness - that is universal in both cultures. The telling is extremely detailed, with a strong focus not on the plot, but on the social and family milieus of the characters. The style is very naturalistic, and may irk American readers who are so used to stories that are action based and plot driven. Yet there are opportunities here for the writer to indulge of some niceties of language, many of which come through despite it being a translation.
What Miyabe has chronicled is the lives of ordinary Japanese, carrying on with their lives, not the flashy high tech or Samurai mythos face of Japan that we see most often in imported Japanese culture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
When Shunsuke Honma, a detective recovering from a gunshot wound, is asked by a young relative to try to find his missing fiancee, Shoko, this "simple" request quickly evolves into much more. Honma also finds himself dealing with issues of credit card debt, bankruptcy, identify theft, and possibly multiple murders.
While the reader is pre-occupied with the complications of this fascinating mystery, s/he is also learning a great deal about how Japan "works" on many levels--the process of job-hunting, the importance of family and the use of the family register, the Public Employment department, attitudes toward women and their changing roles in society, attitudes toward adoption, and how the economy is changing as credit becomes more readily available. These topics add a fascinating new dimension to what might otherwise be a fairly standard, though extremely well written, mystery, keeping the reader thoroughly engaged on a level other than plot.
Cleanly written and straightforward, the novel is also unusual in that Miyabe develops character more successfully than many other mystery writers. Honma is a real person who seems older than his 42 years, with real worries and real domestic problems, and we come to know him, his life with his 10-year-old son, and his hopes for the future. This mystery is a welcome change of pace, still lively and absorbing even ten years after its initial publication.
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Super book and I agree pretty much with the points all of the reviewers above have made. As a rule, I avoid Crime Fiction and anything with the police in it is a complete no-no for me. I almost exclusively read current Literary Fiction with android phones and Twitter and all of today’s inter-communications embedded in the narrative so a twenty-year old detective mystery wouldn’t be my most obvious first choice of reading material. It is only because it is so dated that I have given it only four stars but the characters and plotting are all worth five.
Having said which, I found Honma, the detective and the main character a bit of a cipher and he is written without a lot of personality. What Miyuki Miyabe is brilliant at is her female characters; Mrs Konno, for example, ‘She wore no makeup, and seemed unaware of her appeal.’ Emi Kimura, ‘at first she spoke in a sweet, almost child-like voice’, and Shoko herself, the empty shell, tick-tocking away in the background.
I would have liked the mystery of Yoshiko Sekine explained, since it is a major plot-thread but ultimately preferred the ending we got to one that drew all the plot-threads together.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By amazon@concretecow.fsnet.co.uk on 16 Oct. 1999
Format: Paperback
I was fascinated by this book from the first pages right through to the end. It wasn't just trying to work out who done it and why, but the feeling of being there. It is set in Japan and written by a Japanese author and it shows.
I tend to find that most books or films set abroad are only using it as a backdrop and the story would be the same wherever it is set. However, in this case the Japanese setting is an integral part of the novel. The Japanese attitude to debt and family are all essential elements.
I felt I had read a good book and learnt something about Japan by the end.
The only complaint I have got is that I can't find anything else by her.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 64 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
For Want Of A Penny 9 Jun. 2004
By Marc Ruby™ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. In Japan, Miyabe is a highly successful writer whose novels have been adapted into 10 films as well. Here she is only barely known, represented only by a single detective story - All She Was Worth.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/x-locale/common/customer-reviews/stars-5-0.gifThe novel tells the story of Shinsuke Honma, a middle-aged police detective who is off duty while recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. The enforced inactivity has begun to wear thin on him, and a request from a distant relative to investigate the disappearance of his fiance - Shoko Sekine - tempts him into a freelance investigation that is part meticulous investigation and part social commentary. Shoko disappeared when it was revealed that she had gone through a personal bankruptcy. Honma discovers layer after layer of misdirection and subterfuge - the disappearance is only a reflection of the grim truth.

The telling of the story reveals many of the inherent differences between Japanese and Western writing, even as it pares away at a social problem - easy credit and indebtedness - that is universal in both cultures. The telling is extremely detailed, with a strong focus not on the plot, but on the social and family milieus of the characters. The style is very naturalistic, and may irk American readers who are so used to stories that are action based and plot driven. Yet there are opportunities here for the writer to indulge of some niceties of language, many of which come through despite it being a translation.

What Miyabe has chronicled is the lives of ordinary Japanese, carrying on with their lives, not the flashy high tech or Samurai mythos face of Japan that we see most often in imported Japanese culture. This is quite eye-opening, even as we realize that quiet desperation is not just a Western phenomenon. In a sense, the plot itself isn't very important. In fact, the reader will know from fairly early in the novel what the crime is and who committed it. But the details of Honma's investigation, the bits of his family life, the fine grains of Shoko Sekine's own adventures, fit together like a puzzle, forming a compelling whole of their own. As such, this is an excellent introduction into what makes Japanese popular fiction tick.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Masterful MasterCard Murders in Modern Japan 17 Aug. 2000
By Alexandra Chusid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a chilling and fabulous novel! As a dilettante in world of mystery, I picked up this novel accidentally in my quest for a new Japanese author. What a delight to discover that Miyabe's concerns range far beyond those of the typical "who-done-it."
Each character, from the protagonist--a disabled police officer struggling with his sudden uselessness after a bullet wound takes him out of the game--to the suspect/victim--a girl whose crime of credit excess is mirrored by nearly every middle-class American, reflects profoundly what it means to be a product of a consumer society.
Characters consume, or are consumed. It's a Machievellian glance at society which asks (in the words of Billy Crystal)if it isn't better to look good than to feel good, at least until the bills come due.
I highly recommend this novel as an engrossing mystery, but more importantly, as an impressive social critique of this era.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great Book - Terrible Ending 21 Dec. 2005
By Jess83 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All She Was Worth really caught my eye, and I started reading it the moment it arrived. I found the book to be an intriguing, eye opening look into modern Japanese culture, and also what can happen when you spend more then you have.

The book was written very well, and it had me hooked from the first page. I read the book in several days, and as a slow reader, this is very unusual for me. I could not put this book down, I enjoyed nearly every page, up until the last one. I will not spoil the ending, but I will say that after reading the last page, as someone else mentioned, I sat there searching the blank pages, hoping to find anything to sum it up.

I feel that the book was built up to this final moment, on the final page, and then there is no conclusion. The ending definitely left much to be desired, but I still enjoyed the book immensely. My only other complaint about the book would be that at times, it was to in depth in explaining how bankrupty works. Sometimes it felt more like a text book then a fictional novel.

If you are ok with cliff hangers, then this is a great read, and definitely worth the purchase. If you need loose ends tied up, and the book's main questions answered, then this is not the book for you.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Highly Recommended 10 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Wonderful Read! As a mystery, it's got all the intrigue and plot red herrings you would expect. However, if you are even remotely interested in Japanese society or just want to follow someone around Japan, this book does it well. I am left wondering how well does the translation keeps to the original since more than once I saw what I would have suspected as an English idiom crop up with a Japanese touch. Most notabably a variation on "Keeping up with the Jones". However, as an English reader, this touch only made the story more accessable as a whole. Very entertaining and leaves me wanting more!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good, but Occasionally Forced and Clumsy 12 Jun. 2002
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Miyabe's first book in translation is a solid mystery with an engaging investigator, but suffers slightly from an occasionally lecturing tone. The story revolves around a widowed middle-aged Tokyo police detective who's on injury leave when a distant relative asks him to look into the disappearance of his fiancée. This missing persons case soon turns into what we would now call a case of identity theft as the detective delves into the woman's background.
The protagonist, with his dogged determination to uncover the truth, is an engaging world-weary PI familiar to the genre, and yet still enjoyable. His precocious adolescent boy adds a measure of humanity to him, and you know that at some point, the boy will unwittingly say something important to the investigation. The people he interviews, from a personal bankruptcy lawyer, to a mail-order executive, to hostess bar ladies, all have their own motives and personalities which bring the story to life. A mechanic who becomes his assistant is another great character, brimming with humanity.
The story revolves around consumer credit and its corrupting influences on young people-a problem that while still relevant, is hardly likely to be as surprising to the reader as it is to the detective. There are several sections on the book where long lectures on the history and evils of consumer credit, and the mechanisms of personal bankruptcy are explained. These tend to be clumsy and forced, and the story suffers from them. While it's moderately informative to know that Japan shares the problem with the US (and other wealthy nations), it's not nearly as interesting as the other main device of the novel, the family register. The Japanese system of tracking people via family registers is a method unknown in the US, and as the story shows, easily subverted. Unfortunately, this potentially interesting device is rather confusing to the outsider, and some passages may require rereading in order to absorb the procedures involved. Ultimately, these two elements feel very mechanical when contrasted with the excellent characters found in the story itself, and the climax is enervatingly unsatisfying.
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