As engrossing as it is utterly chilling, OUT is a novel I’ll never forget, but won’t likely ever return to. So gruesomely disturbing, yet incredibly potent as a social commentary, it falls into that rare breed of crime novel that resonates long after the final page is turned. Its shadow lingers.
Natsuo Kirino’s tale is expertly woven. OUT features a large cast of characters from various factions of Japanese society. The focus is predominantly on four Japanese women who work the night shift together at a factory: Masako, Yoshie, Yayoi and Kuniko. Their friendship is founded on their shared occupation rather than any genuine affection, and all have secrets and demons that rear their ugly heads after Yayoi murders her abusive husband and solicits the three other women to aid her in hiding the body. OUT examines the opaqueness of innocence and masterfully demonstrates how easy it is for everyday people to be drawn into a darker world. These four women do not exude malevolence, but they flirt with it throughout the novel’s pages; some eventually find comfort in it, while others desperately refute it, even as they’re imbibed in it.
The violence is stark and grisly, but necessarily so. OUT is grounded in reality. This is a world where, if you cut yourself, you will bleed. There are some uncomfortable, queasy moments, even for a reader such as myself; and I consider myself fairly nonchalant about these things. The characters aren’t likable, but they’re relatable; not always sympathetic, but undoubtedly fascinating as they descend into the madness of Japan’s underworld.
OUT is the darkest crime novel I’ve read in a long time. Maybe the even darkest. Even as I deliberate over the ending, there’s no question in my mind that it’s essential reading for crime fiction devotee. I’ve a feeling, even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll remember your time with it. And a novel that makes you think and feel deserves to be celebrated as a triumph.
Publish Date: 2-Sep-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom