Most helpful positive review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2012
I must admit to having read very little Japanese crime fiction, but drawn by a cover quote from Natsuo Kirino, the author of the remarkable `Out', I was immediately hooked by this bijou slice of Japanese noir. Centred on the criminal activities of pickpocket, Nishimura, this is a at times shocking, but poignant tale of the seedy underbelly of Tokyo. Nishimura spends his days targeting prosperous looking individuals with his deft pickpocketing skills but then finds himself coerced by a fellow friend and member of the criminal fraternity into a seemingly straightforward house invasion that leads to murder. Manipulated by an enigmatic and philosophical crime boss, Kizaki, he finds himself in a desperate situation and is forced to take part in another job that leads himself into great peril. Running alongside this we also see a tentative friendship develop between Nishimura and a young boy who is falling into criminal ways due to the instability of his home life, and this relationship is beautifully captured as Nishimura, himself a criminal, attempts to liberate his protege from a life of crime.
This book is wonderful example of less being so much more with its brevity of narrative style and the compact nature of its prose. Despite its sparseness of style it captures all the salient details of location and atmosphere of everyday life in Tokyo, and the grim human experiences that lurk beneath this quintessentially modern metropolis. The characterisation is pitch perfect as Nishimura is raised from the status of common thief to an all to human protagonist, attempting to rescue the young boy and also by the references to Saeko, a former lover, whose absence impacts strongly on Nishimura's psyche. The crime boss, Kizaki, is a debonair yet utterly ruthless man, who thinks nothing of using others as sacrificial pawns and using a high degree of reason and intelligence to achieve his aims.
A slim but ultimately satisfying read that rises above a simple tag of crime thriller into an altogether more literary exploration of the criminal mind that challenges the reader's assumptions at every turn. A tale of morality and redemption in equal measure. and an author that I will certainly return to in the future.