Out – Natsuo Kirino

The BookDepository

 Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

A few weeks ago I raved about how Sophie Hannah’s Little Face was the best thriller I have ever read – not any more – Out has leapfrogged way past her, straight into my all time top ten books.

As with Little Face, Out isn’t the normal whodunit mystery. We witness the murder very early on, and so the main question for the rest of the book is: Will they get caught?

Yoyoi is a young mother struggling to raise her two young children, and is suffering at the hands of her abusive husband. One night it all becomes too much for her to deal with, and so she murders her husband. She confides in her colleague, Masako, who agrees to help her dispose of the body. With the help of her co-workers Masako dismembers the body and hides the gruesome bits around the city. Unfortunately, some body parts are discovered and the police start asking questions. The plot becomes more complex, as loan sharks become involved, and the prime police suspect tries to find out the truth behind the crime he is innocent of committing

It is really hard to convey just how good this book is. It isn’t just that it is a cleverly plotted, perfectly paced book which is packed with complex characters and boasts a perfect ending. This book really makes you think. What would you do to protect a friend? If you were struggling financially – would you do anything to help your family? This book was so thought provoking that it became the focus of the majority of conversations I had with family and friends this week.

Out isn’t for the squeamish, as there are graphic descriptions of dismemberment and violent rape, but these images were important for conveying the situations that these Japanese women had to deal with. The vivid images I have of this book will stay with me for a very long time.

The only complaint I have is that there were a few minor translation problems. There was the odd sentance that didn’t flow properly, and a few uniquely Japanese things, which were translated in such a way that it lost some of the atmosphere for me. The recurring one being the boxed lunch, which doesn’t exist in the western world. I would much preferred it to be called by it’s Japanese name: the bento box,  as ‘boxed lunch’ doesn’t really bring across the same distinctly Japanese images it should do.

These are very minor issues though, and overall I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Cancel your order for Wilderness, and buy this instead!

stars51

Thank you so much to Melody for recommending this to me. I will be paying much more interest to her recommendations in the future.

What is the best thriller you have ever read?
Have you read any books by Natsuo Kirino?
Are any of the others as good as this one?

but most importantly….would you help your best friend hide her dead husband?!!


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23 Comments

  1. Susi says:

    Now I really want to read this book – and that coming from someone who normally prefers the whodunit mysteries because I simply love being ‘involved’ in finding and catching the murderer.

    I normally am not that big on reading crime novels, but I have read all of Tess Gerritsen’s and all of Kathrin Slaughter’s novels. They are just a good read for a winter’s day, under a blanket, when you just want to start a book and not finish for the rest of the day.

    *sigh* Guess I’ll have to add another book to the never-ending TBR pile.

    Thanks for the recommendation though!

  2. Jackie says:

    Susi – I love trying to work out the mysteries too, but this book has more than enough to keep your brain active. I’m not normally a fan of crime novels, as they often seem unrealistic and the characters often annoy me. This book is really special though, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

    I haven’t read anything my Tess Gerritsen or Kathrin Slaughter. Should I? If so, where should I start?

  3. Susi says:

    Well, the problem with both (Slaughter and Gerritsen) is that their books form a series – the main characters are the same in all of them and in Gerritsen’s case, her first series even has the same killer. So you should probably start at the beginning. Both series are a light read – nothing I would consider ‘high literature’. But they are a good change of themes and pace to classics or Uni literature.
    I would probably – should you ever consider reading either one of those two authors – start with Gerritsen. Her books are the better one out of those two. And I believe the first one in the series is called ‘The surgeon’.

  4. Jackie says:

    Susi – Thanks for the information. I’ll keep an eye out for The Surgeon, and read it next time I’m in the mood for a lighter thriller.

  5. Claire says:

    I am hoping to read this one over the coming months; I’ve only heard good things. Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino is also supposed to be good.

    Speaking of thrillers, I was looking at your TBR piles and noticed In the Woods by Tana French, which reminded me that I have been desperate to read it for a while so I’m going to pick it up from the library next week as they have it in stock.

  6. Violet says:

    It just took me 5 seconds after reading your review to add this to my wishlist on goodreads. Thanks. I’m going to have to check this out. Thanks in turn to Melody too.

  7. Sandy says:

    Oooh, me likey the sound of this one! I’ve not read anything by this author, but I’m going to have to chase it down. I’m not sure I could tell you my favorite thriller, probably because that is all I read until a few years ago. Literally thousands of thrillers I have read, many of them good! Would I help my best friend hide her husband’s body? There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for my friend, so I probably would.

  8. Jackie says:

    Claire – I’ve heard that Grotesque is supposed to be equally good too, so I’m pleased you’ve seen similar things. I don’t like to read two books by the same author too close together, so I think I’ll wait awahile before buying a copy.

    Violet – I’m pleased that you’ve added it to your wish list. I hope you manage to read it soon.

    Sandy – I think you’ll love this one. It is so easy to read, but so clever. I hope you manage to find a copy and love it as much as I did.

    I’d do anything to help my best friend, but I think I’d try to persuade her to go for the self defence option first. Lying about things can go very wrong….

  9. Steph says:

    Great review (per usual!), Jackie! I’ll be checking to see if my library has a copy of this book… if so, my “creepy reading” streak of 2009 will be undeniable.

    Someone earlier mentioned “In The Woods” by Tana French. I feel like a broken record because I keep talking about this lady, but man can she write. ITW is by no means a perfect book but I loved how thoughtful it was, how it has strong characters AND fantastic writing, and oh yeah, there’s a creepy mystery as well. I’d recommend reading it so that you can then read “The Likeness” by French, which was perhaps even better than its predecessor.

  10. Beth F says:

    Looks fabulous! I know what you mean about the translation bit. Sometimes you need to leave the flavor of the original. (no pun intended!)

  11. mee says:

    I don’t usually read this kind of book but was pleasantly surprised to find how good this book was! I haven’t read any of her other books because I hear they’re all not as good (though could still be good somewhat *shrug*). But to answer your question, no I will not help my best friend to hide her dead husband, lol.

  12. Jackie says:

    Steph – OK, you and everyone else have finally persuaded me to dig ITW out of the pile – it will be the next thriller I read!

    Beth – It is a shame, as it would have been perfect otherwise. Nevermind, I’m sure I won’t remember things like that in a few months time.

    mee – I forgot to add that I actually like all my best friend’s husbands, so really I’d be gutted if they were murdered, and wouldn’t like to dispose of them. lol!

  13. kimbofo says:

    I read this a couple of years back. We discussed it as part of the online book group I used to run. You can see our discussion here:

    http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/2005/09/book_group_sess.html

    Earlier this year I read Real World by the same author and found it very disappointing. My review is here:

    http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/2009/01/real-world-by-natsuo-kirino.html

  14. Nymeth says:

    The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it! I’m actually not much of a reader of thrillers, but this sounds like something I’d enjoy. As for your final question…ah, it’s one of those you can’t answer until you’re actually in the situation. What if he were abusive and it had been self-defence, but she had no way to prove it? So many what ifs.

  15. Claire says:

    I meant to comment earlier that I agree: bento box should have remained untranslated; it’s an item that has entered the English-speaking world’s consciousness, just like sake or cappuccino or pizza, and doesn’t need to be explained.

    As for helping my best friend hide her husband’s body … only if she did the same in return for me!

  16. Jackie says:

    kimbofo – I think this would make a really good reading group choice (apart from the fact it is 500+ pages long) I would love to have lots of people to discuss this with.

    I saw negative reviews of Real World on Amazon, so thought that would be the case. I’m off to have a look at your reviews now – thanks for the links.

    Nymeth – I agree – so many what ifs! You can discuss it for hours (I have!)

    Claire – It wasn’t just bento boxes that annoyed me in this book. There were lots of other little words that should have been left in Japanese. I love reading books about other cultures and it is little things like this which give a real sense of place. Such a shame.

  17. Kim says:

    So now you have me thinking. I have really widened my reading scope since I started blogging and although I am not into crime books, I think I will give this a go. I have seen a copy of Out in our local second hand bookshop and if it is still there next time I go in, I will pick it up.
    Now, would I help my friend if she murdered her husband? I can think of one friend I would definitely help!

  18. Jenners says:

    Well Lordy … would I help my best friend hide her disembered dead husband? That is a question I will only know the answer to when I am faced with it!

    This does sound good! I’ll have to check it out!

  19. This book made quite an impression on me when I read it last year. I took it with me to Hawaii last September, in fact. I haven’t yet read anything else by the author, but I want to. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Jackie.

  20. Jackie says:

    Kim – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is still in that charity shop waiting for you!

    Jenners – I’m sure that is one things we will never really be faced with, which is why it is a great talking point!

    Literary Feline – I’ll be keeping my eye out for future mentions of Kirino on your blog. Let’s hope she has written some others as great as this one.

  21. Melody says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading it, Jackie!! This book is listed as one of the top 10 thrillers on my list. If you enjoy reading this author, I think you might enjoy reading Mo Hayder too! Her books are equally awesome! ;)

  22. Matthew says:

    Well, it’s obviously too late to cancel my order of Wilderness since the package will arrive at my door anytime soon. But this book also stands out from among many thrillers. These Japanese authors (people in general) know how to knead a murder thriller, not to mention the horror movies. I’m sold on this one!

  23. Jackie says:

    Melody – I saw Mo Hayden on your list – I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

    Matthew – OK – you are probably right to keep Wilderness. This is a different sort of book altogether. Wilderness is thought provoking and sad, while Out is a clever fast paced thriller. Out is probably the perfect book to read once you’ve finished Wilderness!

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