Ryu Murakami was born in Nagasaki in 1952. His first book, "Almost Transparent Blue" was first published in 1976 and won that year's Akutagawa Prize. "Piercing" - his ninth book - was first published in 1994, with the English translation following in 2007.
To his neighbours, Kawashima Masayuki seems to be living a perfectly happy, quite normal life : a successful graphic artist, he's married to Yoko and the pair have a 4-month old daughter called Rie. However, life isn't entirely perfect - both have had difficult pasts. Yoko had once attempted suicide, after a previosu relationship collapsed. Kawashima's parents broke up when he was young, and he was regularly beaten by his mother - something he still hasn't really forgiven her for. He has long suffered from insomnia and, occasionally, still suffers from the night terrors. On the whole, however, married life had been going well for Kawashima. However, some of the old fears have recently returned and, for the last ten nights, Kawashima has been standing over Rie with an ice-pick in his hand. Having vowed never to harm his daughter, Kawashima is terrified that he might. He finally decides that there's only one way to ease the building pressure : he'll have to use his ice-pick on someone else. So, Kawashima comes up with a cover story, takes a little time off work and books himself into a hotel in town. He then carefully plans his crime, and settles on an S&M prostitute as his victim...unfortunately, Sanada Chiaki isn't quite something he could have really planned for.
Only the second book by this Murakami I've read - after "In the Miso Soup" - and I found it a good deal better. It's a little more believable somehow and I found it easier to empathise with the characters...not that I'd want to be locked in a room with either one of them, admittedly. Despite being a little gruesome, it's a book I was able to get through quickly and - if thrillers are your thing - it's well worth a read.