Piercing – Ryu Murakami

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Piercing  Translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy

Five words from the blurb: ice pick, confront, demons, psychosexual, murder

Piercing is a dark, fast paced thriller set in Tokyo. The book begins with Kawashima, a new father, stroking his daughter’s skin with an ice pick. He has a strong desire to cut her tiny body, but knows this is wrong. In order to prevent himself from murdering his baby he decides that he should redirect his longing to cut flesh by targeting an older woman. As he plans his crime we get an insight into the terrifying mind of a psychopath. 

Gripping the ice pick lightly to minimise trembling, he placed the point of it next to the baby’s cheek. Every time he studied this instrument, with its slender, gleaming steel rod that tapered down to such needle-like sharpness, he wondered why it was necessary to have things like this in the world. If it were truly only for chopping ice, you’d think a completely different design might do. The people who produce and sell things like this don’t understand, he thought. They don’t realise that some of us break out in a cold sweat at just a glimpse of that shiny, pointed tip.

This book was totally gripping – I read it in a single, terrifying sitting. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the shocking events that were unfolding; equally intrigued and repelled by the meticulous planning that went into organising a murder.

This book doesn’t have any deep insight or complexity – it is pure entertainment. The plot drags you forward with an ever increasing sense of dread and although the graphic scenes of violence were just understated enough for me to be able to cope, I’m sure that some people will struggle with a few sections.

Recommended to anyone looking for a chilling thriller.

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This is my first Ryu Murakami, but I am keen to try more. Have you read any of his books?

Which is your favourite?

 


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26 Comments

  1. Ooooh I have been wanting to read this one for ages Jackie. It sounds so creepy and having read his novel ‘In The Miso Soup’ I know how well he can combine chills and thrills. I shall order this one from the library, thanks for reminding me how much I wanted to read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I have been wanting to read ‘In the Miso Soup’ for a while, but haven’t stumbled across a copy yet. The positive reviews I’ve seen for that book encouraged me to try this one, despite the fact I’ve heard nothing about it. I look forward to trying all his other books now.

  2. Brenna says:

    Oh my! This sounds like a good one for the RIP challenge.

    1. Jackie says:

      Brenna, Yes – a perfect match for the RIP challenge – and it’s short too :-)

  3. Sounds like a great book, Jackie. I immediately checked my library’s website but they don’t have the book (nor can they order it from elsewhere). Pity!

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, Sorry to hear it isn’t in your library. I’ve heard good things about his other books so it might be worth you seeing if you can find one of them instead.

  4. JoV says:

    hmmm I’m still hesitating.. Graphic, murder, chilling… will I have nightmare after this? :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I’m afraid that is impossible to say. It didn’t give me nightmares – perhaps because I’m not scared it is going to happen to me? I guess it all boils down to how sensitive you are to these things.

  5. Sandy says:

    I’m proud of you! I know these types of things creep you out. I can safely add graphic novels to my list and know I will get through them, as most of them are single sitting reads for me. I’m going to see if my library has it…this is usually my only limitation.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thanks Sandy! I’m trying to wean myself onto horror slowly. Perhaps I’ll be ready for Stephen King one day soon :-)

  6. stujallen says:

    I ve not read him but seen them in library when picked out the other Murakami ,may try him but not a dark story fan ,but he may be worth a try ,great review Jackie ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, If you aren’t a fan of dark stories then it might be a good idea to avoid this one. This is one of the darkest I’ve found.

  7. Bellezza says:

    There is nothing like a Japanese author to write a chilling thriller. So far, I prefer them to the Scandinavian authors, if you know who I mean, by quite a lot. I still shiver when I think of Out by Natsuo Kirino. I’ll be adding Piercing to my personal reading list, as well as Suggested Reading List for the Japanese Literature Challenge 5 which will start this June. Thanks for such an inspiring review, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, I have to agree with you. I haven’t exactly experienced a lot, but the two Scandanavian thrillers I’ve read (Dragon Tatto and The Snowman) have been nowhere near as good as the the Japanese thrillers I’ve read (2xKirino and this).

      This is a great choice for people trying the Japanese Lit challenge for the first time as it is short, fast paced, gripping and requires no knowledge of Japanese culture. I hope that you enjoy it.

  8. Jessica says:

    I also enjoyed In the Miso Soup, its not the sort of book that will win awards but it was entertaining. I also want to read The Audition by this author which they made a film version of.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, I didn’t realise that they’d made a film of Audition. I really want to read all of his books now and may well get the film out if I don’t find the book too scary.

  9. I read this one back in Feb, and while I enjoyed it and the clinical way it was told, I was a little disappointed that the rest of the book didn’t live up to that first scene, with the icepick.

    1. Jackie says:

      Darren, I agree that the first chapter was the best, but I loved the way it gripped me all the way through. It could be improved, but I enjoyed it enough as it was.

  10. parrish says:

    Yeah loved this book & miso, but favourite is Almost Transparent Blue, talk about underbelly of a culture this book screams it, for another Japanese thriller try Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

    1. Jackie says:

      Parrish, I haven’t heard of Transparent Blue before, but if you say it is the best then I will ensure I check it out. I’ll also see if I can findVillian. Thanks for the recommendations.

  11. sakura says:

    Ryu Murakami is one of those authors that seem to polarise a lot of readers. I read his first book Almost Transparent Blue many years ago and couldn’t bear to read anything else by him for a long time (I’m not sure why I found it so disturbing considering I read a lot of crime thrillers…) But I’ve begun to want to read his stuff again but I’ll probably start with something a bit lighter as he’s very prolific and writes quite widely.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, thanks for warning me about the disturbing nature of Transparent – I’ll remember to read it in the day light when I’m not on my own. I hope you enjoy your next Murakami.

  12. I think you’re perhaps underselling it, it’s entertaining but I do feel there is subtext there. His other novel, In the Miso Soup, while being, at times, quite horrific (you know the scene if you’ve read it) but does have some things to say about Japanese culture.

    Also, Audition does have a lot of things to say about men and women: http://damnedconjuror.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/review-audition/

    1. Jackie says:

      DamnedConjuror, you could well be right about me underselling this book. I didn’t spot any depth in the subject matter, but perhaps I was too gripped to the plot to notice.

      I haven’t read Miso
      so can’t compare the two, but I look forward to reading it and seeing if I spot any additional depth.

  13. Asako says:

    I think Ryu Murakami always try for a new challenge. His writings have various styles. I like “Coin Locker Babies”. It’s not so chilling. By the way, I looked to the illustration on the book cover of Piercing. It’s by a famous comic artist, Syungiku Uchida. They are bracketed together as Japanese pop culture artists by UK publisher? It’s interesting…

  14. Ah, good ol’ Japanese writing and pure thrillers, and books you feel compelled to read in one go! I haven’t read anything by Ryu Murakami yet, but have 69 on the shelf, which I’ve been saving for the next Jap Lit Challenge.

    This sounds fantastic, and based on the reviews of this and In The Miso Soup, it sounds like I’m in for a helluva ride.

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