Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All She Was Worth, by Miyuki Miyabe

(hb; 1992, 1996: translated by Alfred Birmbaum)

From the inside flap:

"Police detective Shunsuke Honma should be at the peak of his career, but can't stop the world from closing in around him. Alone with his small son, he's on an extended leave of absence since a car accident killed his wife and a stray bullet left him with a limp. His self-imposed exile is interrupted by a visit from a young nephew. It seems a routine credit card application turned up a bankruptcy in his fiancée's past, and she disappeared without a word.

"Honma visits the office where she last worked and checks into her resumé, only to find that all the previous employers listed are invented and that she owes massive debts to loan sharks. How well had his nephew ever known her?

"What would it take to cut through the elaborate red tape Japan uses to keep tabs on its citizens and become a different person? Maybe murder?"


Plotwise, this is more routine than The Devil's Whisper and Crossfire -- as in: no supernatural or subliminal elements are woven into the storyline.

Characterwise, it's masterfully complex, plot-twisty and character-true, with each character -- even the elusive Shoko Sekine -- shown as a realistic being with good and bad points. The characters are a big part of the glue that holds this quietly intriguing story together.

That is not to say that the storyline is staid; Miyabe subtly increases the tension, character by character, clue by clue, to an emotionally-charged open ending that reminded me of John le Carré's novel, Smiley's People (one of my all-time favorite book finishes).

Another entertaining, excellent novel from Miyabe, a bestselling author in Japan -- and rightfully so, judging by the three books I've read by her.

Worth owning, this, if you have space for a large personal library and must own what you love; worth checking out from the library, and recommending, if you're like me -- as in: you prefer a compacted "all-time favorites" book collection, and have little space to store books.

Either way, Miyabe's consistently distinctive works are worth your time and money.

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