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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and disturbing - definitely worth a read
Everything about the setting of Natsuo Kirino's new novel Out is bleak. Set in Japan with four disillusioned and desperate women as the anti-heroines who work the graveyard shift in a boxed-lunch factory, there is little in the story that inspires hope or confidence. Each of the four has problems that threaten the life she has created for herself, and each life sits...
Published on 9 July 2005 by nimone

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Riveting at times but definitely not for everyone
Having just finished this book, I'm still trying to find a way to digest the ending.

I'm an avid reader and a fast one at that, however it took me an unusually long time to get through this book due to parts of it being so disturbing I simply had to think about something else for a little while. That is the beauty of the work and what makes it so riveting, the...
Published 19 months ago by penpusher


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and disturbing - definitely worth a read, 9 July 2005
By 
nimone (Rutland, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
Everything about the setting of Natsuo Kirino's new novel Out is bleak. Set in Japan with four disillusioned and desperate women as the anti-heroines who work the graveyard shift in a boxed-lunch factory, there is little in the story that inspires hope or confidence. Each of the four has problems that threaten the life she has created for herself, and each life sits precariously on the edge of a precipice. When one of them snaps and murders her abusive and neglectful husband, she leans a little too far over the edge and by asking the others to help her dispose of the body, pulls them over with her.
In the ensuing downward spiral of all the women they are joined by the man the police suspect for the murder, a wealthy but disturbed casino mogul, and a loan-shark with yakuza connections who discovers their secret. The novel's themes of murder, extortion, blackmail, rape and dismemberment create an absolute mess for the characters to find their way out of, and in the process they learn far more about themselves than they are comfortable with, especially their capacity for doing the undesirable.
Although there is no real suspense or a twisting plot, this dark mystery makes for compelling reading. Its main difference from and appeal over other crime novels is that it's told primarily from the point of view of the culprits rather than the victims or detectives. The characters, with all their personal demons and failings, are described without judgement or attachment in a cold, factual tone which adds nothing to warm the novel, but is surprisingly effective. Their actions inspire a mixture of sympathy and contempt, all the while making you wonder exactly how you would react in their situation. The worrying thing is that given the parameters, the actions, which in some cases are truly abominable, seem to make sense. The only person with whom it was impossible to identify was the casino owner whose darkest past feeds the brutal ending to the story. Several times in the novel he is referred to as a monster, and without a doubt, Kirino has created one.
Out provides a detailed look into the dark and dreary lives of otherwise ordinary people living in Tokyo, and is written with intelligence and an observant eye, but is ultimately a punch in the gut disguised as a lesson in human motivation and despair.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eting & Relevant Fiction That Surpasses Genre. Excellent!!, 16 Nov. 2005
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
Four women, co-workers on the night shift at a box lunch factory on the outskirts of Tokyo, form an unlikely friendship based on their mutual desperation -a dissatisfaction with their inattentive, unresponsive husbands and disaffected children, strained economic situations and emotional isolation. When Yayoi Yamamoto, a young wife and mother kills her abusive, philandering spouse, the four come together voluntarily to perform a most grisly act. They dismember the body to facilitate disposal. Although of disparate ages and characters, the women become quite bound to one another through an increasing web of conspiracy, self-interest and suspicion. A series of indiscretions and careless mistakes expose them all to unforeseeable dangers.
"Out" is so much more than a psychological thriller or a formulaic crime novel. This is fiction that surpasses genre. Although plot driven, much of the story is dependent on character development and change. The characters are portrayed so vividly, even the minor ones, that the reader cannot help but form a strong attachment to them. It really does not matter, ultimately, if the connection is positive or not - one still looks forward to following the various personages forward to their individual destinies. Masako Katori, shrewd and extremely intelligent, is the definite leader among the women and an absolutely fascinating figure. Although she has perfected a cold, detached veneer with which she presents herself to the world, inside she is despondent and in turmoil. Increasingly alone and alienated from her husband and teenage son, she longs for "freedom." "It had started with something in her. Her hopelessness and a longing for freedom had brought her to this point." Masako is looking for a way "out" of her claustrophobic life.
This is definitely a novel noir, with a substantial dose of S&M thrown into the mix. obviously not for the faint of heart. I became absorbed in the story almost instantly, only to have my interest wane after the murder is committed. My attention span was at fault here, not the author's writing. Fortunately I stayed with it because the second half of the novel is even better than the first, I think - really riveting! This is some of the best and most unusual writing I have encountered in some time. It is also very disturbing. Since I do not speak Japanese I can only judge by the translation, and for me the stark, gritty prose really accentuates the building tension in the narrative and the oppressiveness of the environment. I found myself thinking about "Out" long after I had turned the last page.
Ms. Natsuo provides a rare glimpse into the bleak subculture of many lower middle class Japanese workers who live on the margins of society, worlds away from the lights and glitter of Tokyo's Ginza district. Readers also gain access to the grim Japanese underworld. I should note that there is wonderful dark humor throughout to alleviate the oppressive quality of the storyline.
Although Natsuo Kirino is considered one of the best mystery writers in Japan, multiple award-winning novel "Out" is Ms. Kirino's first book to be published in English. It has also been made into a Japanese motion picture.
JANA
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is scary reading!, 9 Aug. 2007
By 
SJSmith (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
An amazing read. I'm not usually keen on award winners, approaching them with trepidation as I usually find them stilted and well basically, boring. I will defintely be looking out for more by this author!

Set in the suberbs of Tokyo there are four women who work the night shifts at a boxed-lunch factory. All four have different reasons for needing to be there - money, only job available, to be alone; although the one thing they have in common is a need to escape (primarily from their own lives). This is the first meaning of the title 'Out'.

One of the women kills her husband, for a variety of reasons and amazingly Masako offers to help her. There is no reason for her to help, but she does. They actually dismember and dispose of him. Meanwhile we are introduced to a nightclub owner (Satake) who the police believe has committed the murder.

The story centres eventually around these two characters, who for me are the two appearing on the dust jacket. We follow their lives - every part of it, from their dreams, fears to their daily routines and more especially their enemies.

If you felt disturbed by reading 'American Psycho' then this may carry the same or worse feelings. It's cold from the outset. Initially this took me by surprise but then I realised it could be to reflect the genre or be traditional of this writing style. The characters are so convincingly described and the narrative is so powerful. It really is a chilling read. It is violent, disturbing and will seep into you when you least expect it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Riveting at times but definitely not for everyone, 5 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
Having just finished this book, I'm still trying to find a way to digest the ending.

I'm an avid reader and a fast one at that, however it took me an unusually long time to get through this book due to parts of it being so disturbing I simply had to think about something else for a little while. That is the beauty of the work and what makes it so riveting, the fact that it will get under your skin and you'll find yourself thinking about the characters over your morning cuppa and as you walk to work.

Kirino is certainly a talented woman. I felt her characters come to life, the four ladies in particular whose choices and the consequences of these the reader is drawn into. I found myself admiring Masako in spite of her unusual gift of making bodies disappear. I felt sadness for Yoshi and such irritation and loathing towards Koniko!

Certainly a compelling read and I found that when I could stomach it again I was keen to hurriedly turn the pages and read more.

So why the mediocre score?

Unfortunately, as I have found in so much Japanese fiction, books and movies alike, there's a heavy emphasis on rape and sexual molestation. And Kirino makes a point of letting the reader know that the women just happen to LOVE it. Even if she doesn't like it at first, she realises how great it feels eventually and out emerges a moaning groaning porn star. There's a redeeming bit here and there to justify it all, such as the poor man is simply lonely or the girl is so horny she wouldn't mind a bit of molestation to get her through the day so it's totally fine, as though the girl is being done a favour by having her inner sexuality drawn out with a bit of rape. I sound sarcastic and scathing, however it really does bring down the tone of the book which could otherwise be a disturbing account of the recesses of the human mind.

The way females throughout the story are described or treated in different scenes are no doubt a reflection of a different culture and Kirino does not shy away from this depressing truth in her book, explaining in depth the gap between the sexes and how they are treated in the workplace for example. However I find it unusual to read such graphic descriptions of a woman being savagely beaten and raped to death yet somehow orgasmically and happily so. Then for the story to have more rape scenes, again of course, with a woman who is overcome with orgasmic feelings as she is violated after an initial angry reaction. That strikes me as cheap shot to shock the reader or perhaps a peek into the author's own dark fantasies.

In summery, I wish I hadn't come across this book, but I did thanks to a gift and I find it near impossible to get rid of books without reading them. It's going to stay with me a while which makes me think that it will be a good and riveting read for some. But I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who has a history of sexual abuse or worse as it is not, as I myself presumed, simply a very dark thriller. It'll mess with your mind and make you look over your shoulder if you'r walking home alone on a dark night. Creepy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and bloody, but gripping, 26 Sept. 2013
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
This is first of Natsuo Kirino's crime novels to be published in English, in a very authentic translation by Stephen Snyder. Be prepared for physical and sexual violence, an atmosphere of almost unremitting gloom and despair, unthinking racism and family squabbling. So, not many laughs.....

Four women, Masako, Yoshie, Kuniko and Yayoi, work together on the night shift in a factory preparing boxed-lunches. Each is near despair, Masuko because her husband and son no longer communicate with her, Yoshie because of the strain of looking after her invalid mother-in-law, Kuniko because of unrelieved debt and Yayoi because of her husband's gambling.

When Yayoi discovers that her husband, Kenji, has lost all of their savings in an attempt to impress a nightclub hostesses, she strangles him. With no-one else to turn to, she asks Masako what she should do. Soon the four friends are working together to make it seem that Kenji has simply abandoned Yoyoi and her two young children. This involves ensuring that his body will never turn up. They have to convince the police that their story is true but then members of the criminal underworld and a murderous night-club owner begin to ask questions, and the women's lives are changed forever.

There are some obvious weaknesses in the plot, the police seem not to be very interested and there is a body to carried from car to home, maybe Japanese neighbours are less nosey? However, the author is more concerned with the impact of such a criminal joint venture on the four women, each of which is affected differently. There are some very unpleasant scenes but these are flagged up in advance so that readers with a weak stomach can skip the relevant pages. It is important to say that the author does not glorify the violence, it is there as a narrative device to get the reader to ask questions, how could these women agree to act in this way? will they be punished? Do I want them punished? The violence is similar to that in Jo Nesbø's `Harry Hole' novels.

The final part of this bleak novel, which is told from the perspectives of the two people involved, verges on the misogynistic and the ending is something of a disappointment. I have no idea whether the author's portrayal of modern life in suburban Tokyo is realistic or not, but the explosive mix of sex, money and violence is not confined to Japan. Kirino introduces a side-story involving a Brazilian immigrant, Kazuo Miyamori, who is also working in the factory and who is attracted to Masako. The casual racism meted out to Kazuo and other foreigners by the Japanese is quite shocking. Kazuo's lack of self-confidence which, together with his poor Japanese and one or two other factors, inhibits his approaching Masako is particularly well described.

The way in which the four friends deal with the knowledge of what they have done and the attentions of both the police and their criminal pursuers appears convincing, and the build-up of tension is very well controlled. The author takes us inside the various characters' heads and we begin to see how they are responding internally and externally to what they have done. I found Masako and Kazuo the best-drawn characters, whereas the police and criminals seemed very two-dimensional.

I look forward to reading Kirino's next book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly horrible!, 27 Sept. 2008
By 
Phil (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Out (Paperback)
Set in a bleak urban landscape peopled by loansharks and yakuza, deranged men, and lonely, impoverished women, this novel by Natsuo Kirino full of desperation, greed and hatred, and without much description, had to have something special to stand a chance with me. And it did: I was utterly gripped, from start to finish. (Some of the credit's due to the translator, who did an excellent job: it reads throughout like an original text.)

It's a psychologically powerful work, the product of a sharp intelligence, and bitterness fuelled by the lot of Japanese women. Cleverly plotted, it manages with ease the complex web of interconnections between the characters. At times you have to turn a blind eye to the unlikeliness of it (would Masako really be so confident that neither son nor husband would come home early and find her cutting up a corpse in the bathroom?!), and yet generally it convinced me. The pitch-black humour won't be to everyone's taste, but it helps to make this dark and disturbing novel more approachable. Nothing is superfluous, and Kirino is brilliant at cranking up the tension: the final third is as suspenseful as anything I've ever read, and the climax is electrifying. I've a feeling, though, that it's one of those rare masterpieces that is best read just once.

Not for the faint-hearted, or those who cannot imagine finding a plot centred on human dismemberment remotely enjoyable!

Update, May 2013: for some reason, this review appears with the author given as Stephen Snyder (who is, I think, the translator of this novel). The auther is in fact Natsuo Kirino.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out, Natsuo Kirino, 19 Nov. 2004
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
I have said that the best crime fiction is not coming from Britain or America but from Europe. While the basic truth of that sentence remains, I might have to change it: the best crime fiction is not coming from Britain or America but from almost anywhere else.
Natuso Kirino's "Out" won prizes in its native Japan, and was also shortlisted for America's prestigious Edgar Award, making her the first Japanese author ever to up for the award. She didn't win (Ian Rankin's Resurrection Men did), but she easily could have. This is a super book; a harrowing and cloying read that has a whiff of Ruth Rendell about it (it's odd and yet telling how the best crime fiction from anywhere in the world is compared to Rendell's considerable yardstick). It's the story of four women who work the Night Shift at a boxed-lunch factory in Tokyo. Eventually, under pressure from an overbearing and abuse husband, one snaps and kills him. She turns to her co-workers for help disposing of the body. Thus they're drawn into a dark work of death and violence. The police come to suspect a wealthy local businessman, and that suspicion ruins him. From that point on, he wants revenge on the real killers, and becomes increasingly convinced he knows just who they are...
This is probably set to be one of the crime novels of the year. It's superbly written, and, to use that old comparison again, the psychological insight Kirino shows toward her characters is distinctly of the Rendell quality. It's probably not an easy book to read, but it's certainly a rewarding and very tense one. In the best traditions of Eastern art (film, books, etc) it is originally and ever-so-slightly twisted. Despite it's length - which makes it a meaty read - it's paced quickly as the plot moves so effectively, shifts along smoothly. It's a deceptively clever book, too, as well as serving as a great window onto a certain section of Japanese society. It could almost be classed as feminist in its progressive portrayal of women in a society that generally views them with eyes very different to those of the Western world.
To people who like cheap thrills, this may not satisfy, as it's rather too full of detail, fascinating though it is. But to people who like complex, challenging and dark crime fiction (a la Mo Hayder, possibly), Out receives a hearty recommendation from me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Edge of the Seat Thriller, 21 July 2014
By 
William Mason (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
This is a highly absorbing and tense crime thriller. Four disgruntled Japanese women work the night-shift at a factory in Tokyo producing boxed lunches. Their working lives are mundane and monotonous. One of the foursome, Yayoi, kills her violent drunkard husband, and turns to her friends for help. The friends, led by Masako, cover up the crime, by chopping up the body and disposing of it in garbage bags around the slummier streets of Tokyo. The group of friends then set up in business disposing of other corpses who are victims of crime, and as the book progresses, their interwoven lives become ever more difficult and complex. You find yourself getting involved with each of the 4 main characters, which is a sure fire sign of a good read. Out is a brilliant novel indeed. It is relentless, unashamedly grisly, thought-provoking, involving, and definitely the sort of book you won't put down if you enjoy the first 10 pages. I've read some of Natsuo Kirino's other books, but they pale by comparison with Out. It is perhaps not the sort of book you would want to read on a holiday beach, or late at night. If you liked American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, there's a strong chance you'll like Out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously dark and dangerous, 11 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
I bought "Out" from Amazon having come across it whilst browsing - definitely an impulse buy that was absolutely worth it, and has given me the crime/thriller novel bug!

The characters are all animated in their own ways, standing out in the dreary, realistic setting. The plot was gripping, told in such intricate detail it had me hooked from beginning to end. The way in which Kirino has flipped the traditional crime/thriller plot to be so it is told mainly from the killer's accomplices/colleagues/friends' point of view, who, ironically, bear most of the consequences of the killer's actions, is magnificently created. The gruesome climax was very unexpected, to me at least, told with clever and dark, (yet at times crudely explicit), detail, so much so that I wouldn't be suprised if it was to get a visual imitation in the future.

I've rated this novel deservedly high, having exceeded all of my expectations, and, I think, reflects Kirino's brilliance as predominantly a promising novelist but also, a creative artist.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Passport to the darkest depths of the human psyche!, 14 Jan. 2005
By 
A. J. Smith (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Out (Paperback)
More than a simple thriller, Out is a tour de force of the unthinkable and a startling insight into inhumanity. With beginnings in an unlikely setting, four women stuck in a mundane factory night shift, you have a feeling that this has a touch of familiarity with ones everyday life. That touch of familiarity is by far one of the most disturbing elements of this novel.
Out's horror lies in the possible scenario of one taking an unthinkable step to escape the mediocrity of everyday life. All characters portrayed are seemingly average people leading lives that have lost a meaningful direction. However, when crisis appears and the way out is a seemingly unthinkable task, would you take it?
The dismemberment is only the beginning because from there Out takes a truly unpredictable direction. The unpredictability is one of the novels key strengths, because the author gives you hints, not clues, as to where the novel is going. The only thing one is able to discern from the hints is that it is not heading anywhere good. It is likely you will find yourself appalled at the acts comitted, yet retaining a sympathy for the perpetrators and a desire to see them escape from whatever fate they have carved out for themselves.
Without revealing too much about the plot, Out presents an unflinching examination into how dehumanized one can become, and how one can develop a taste for baser predatory desires. The characterization is excellent, with a great ammount of background given to the central characters and a sense of connection established between them and their situations.
A huge ammount of credit must be given to Stephen Snyder, the translator. As a student of the Japanese language, I am aware of how different the sentence structure and expression of this novel would have been in its native language.
By far the most disturbing novel I have ever read, treat Out less as a novel and more as a ticket. A ticket to the darkest recesses of the human cycle, and a one way ticket from whence there is no return!
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Out by Natsuo Kirino (Paperback - 2 Sept. 2004)
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