Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out (Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder) First published in Japan in 1997 by Kodansha Ltd. First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Vintage. IBSN: 9780099472285. 522 pages.

Out revolves around four women struggling to stay financially and emotionally afloat under very difficult circumstances. They work the night shift on an assembly line preparing boxed lunches at a food processing factory in a Tokyo suburb. It’s a back-breaking job, but the pay is good. Each one has her own reason to work out of sync from the rest of the world.

The leader of the line, Masako Katori, is in her late forties. Her skills are rather wasted. She lives in isolation with a husband who is locked up in his room and a son who won’t spell a word.

Kuniko Jonouchi is twenty-nine and sees herself ugly and fat. A faction victim, she is heavily in debt. She wishes to be a different woman, living a different life, in a different place, with a different man. Her live-in partner has just abandoned her.

Yoshie Azuma, “the Skipper”, a widow in her late fifties has to take care of her invalid mother-in-law, a teenage daughter and a grandson. She can hardly sleep and she can hardly make it until pay day.

Yayoi Yamamoto, the most attractive woman on the night shift, is thirty-four. She is a married woman with two small kids, ages five and three. Her good-for-nothing husband is an alcoholic that beats her.

One night Yayoi strangles her husband out of range because he has lost gambling all their savings. In desperation she turns to Masako for help. She doesn’t want to go to the police since she doesn’t feel like having done anything wrong.

Not sure why Masako decides to help her. Her plan is to cut up the body put the pieces in garbage bags and spread them all around Tokyo. Somehow Yoshie and Kuniko manage to get involved in this macabre plan with the promise of getting paid for. But due to the negligent behaviour of Kuniko the police find some bags and the body can be identified.

The main suspect is Mitsuyoshi Satake the owner of the casino where Yayoi’s husband used to gamble, but he is finally released due to lack of evidence. Having lost his reputation Satake is then determined to find the real murderer and to have his own revenge.

This is quite a bleak story and the novel is heavy going to say the least. I found it too lengthy, unnecessarily lengthy. There are passages that can get a bit tedious and are sometimes repetitive, almost monotonous. And the final is very disappointing.

Out (1997) received the Grand Prix for Crime Fiction, Japan’s top mystery award, and was a finalist (in English translation) for the 2004 Edgar Award.

Natsuo Kirino is the nom de plume of Mariko Hashioka (1951) a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction.

Out is my second contribution covering Asia to Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge.



Natsuo Kirino Official Site

Natsuo Kirino Wikipedia

Out Wikipedia


Complete Review

The Guardian

Reactions to Reading

The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

el-coche-de-bomberos-que-desaparecio_maj-sjowall-per-whaloo_libro-OAFI385TFETD The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Original title: Brandbilen som försvann (1969). Spanish title: El coche de bomberos que desapareció. Translated by Martin Lexell and Manuel Abella, 2010. RBA Libros, S.A., 2010. Barcelona. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-84-9867-718-8

A couple of weeks ago I’ve decided to participate in the Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2010, hosted by Amy at The Black Sheep Dances. You can find more information here. The challenge objective is to read six books written by Scandinavian authors before the year end. My aim is to read only crime fiction, one at least from each Scandinavian country in a broad sense. That is to say Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. With four books now in my TBR list it should not be all that difficult to achieve this goal.

Nordic crime writers are extremely popular today all over the world and Scandinavian crime fiction is synonym now-a-days of high quality books. There is probably no single reason which can explain their success but almost everybody agrees that, whatever the reasons, these are firmly rooted in a series of ten novels that were jointly written by a team of Swedish journalist, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, between the late Sixties and the early Seventies. Husband and wife in their private life their recognition arrived when The Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck # 4) was awarded the Edgar Prize for best crime fiction book in 1971.

th_scandinaviamap-1 The ten novels in the series were written from a clearly defined socialist point of view. The political events of that time, such as the Greek dictatorship and the Vietnam War, often show up in the plot as backdrop. Their intention, according to Wahlöö, was to “use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of the ideological pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois type.” It is still open to debate whether they succeeded or not. In any case they did succeed in the creation of one of the most interesting and wonderful series of crime novels ever. All Nordic crime fiction writers are in debt with them and crime writers all over the world had acknowledge their admiration for this series.

The Fire Engine that Disappeared was first published in Sweden in 1969. It is the fifth instalment featuring Martin Beck and his colleagues at the Central Bureau of Investigation in Stockholm. The book opens with a suicide note in which only the name of Martin Beck is written. Shortly after, a nearby apartment building that was under police observation explodes. The fire that follows kills three people. It was first explained as the consequence of a suicidal attempt by gas. But a forensic analysis unfolds that one of the bodies was already dead when the fire began. When Beck and his team investigate the circumstances behind this crime the principal suspect is found killed inside a drowned car and the time of his death is dated before the explosion.

The Fire Engine that Disappeared (Martin Beck # 5) is a first class police procedural. It is very well constructed and I’ve enjoyed it very much. So far I’ve already read the previous four books but I will definitively consider this one to be one of my favourites. My intention is to read the ten novels in chronological order as they are being published in Spanish at a rate of two each year by RBA Libros. This was the first one published in 2010 and the good news is that there are five more to come. Normally I don’t rate my readings but this book deserves the highest rating.


Maj Sjöwall

Per Wahlöö

Barnes & Noble

Fantastic Fiction

Scandinavian Crime Fiction


Scandinavian Books


Euro Crime

Crime Scraps

>An Education (2009)


education Director: Lone Scherfig

Screenplay: Nick Hornby based on an autobiographical essay by Lynn Barber.

Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins

Synopsis: Jenny (Carey Mulligan) a very bright girl on the cusp of her 17th birthday, finds herself in a whirlwind romance with the much older David ( Peter Sarsgaard). Prior to meeting him, Jenny was working hard at secondary school to ensure getting to Oxford University. When she sees the lifestyle David can provide, one she never imagined could be hers, she’s hooked and thoughts of Oxford are forgotten. Then, when things are looking pretty good for Jenny with the dashing (yet a little too smooth) David, the truth hits her like a ton of bricks. Jenny goes from being a bright eyed school girl and a sophisticated young lady, all the way back to questioning if she really knows who she is at all. ‘An Education’ won the Audience Choice award and the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Comments: Begoña and I went to see this film last Saturday March 10. It was released in Spain last February 26 and I was not aware that it was directed by Lone Scherfig of which I have enjoyed two previous films: Italian for Beginners and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself. Although the film doesn’t tell much besides what it is mentioned in the synopsis, it has the ability to hook you from the very beginning due to well developed characters and great performances, particularly Carey Mulligan and Alfred Molina. I did enjoy it.

My rating: 6/10


Official Website

Semana Negra de Gijón (Gijon’s Noir Week)

semana negra gijon The Semana Negra (Noir Week) is a literary festival held annually during the month of July in the northern city of Gijón, Spain.

It was originally a celebration of detective fiction that has grown to cover a wide array of popular culture.

The official dates for the XXIII Noir Week are July 9 to 18, 2010.

For further information visit http://www.semananegra.org/ (In Spanish)

Gijon City Guide (In English)

Saturday Film Noir: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window (1944), directed by Fritz Lang, tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) who meets and becomes attracted with a young femme fatale. Fritz Lang changed the film’s original ending to conform to the moralistic Production Code of the time. The term “film noir” was originated as a genre description in part because of this movie. It was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window (1944) were released in France. In Spain The Woman in the Window was released under the title La mujer del cuadro.

For more information:



%d bloggers like this: