Out: A Novel by Natsuo Kirino

Posted September 7, 2016 by michaelhicks in Reviews / 1 Comment

Out: A Novel by Natsuo KirinoOut by Natsuo Kirino
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Published by Audible Studios on 21 June 2016
Length: 18 hrs and 11 mins
Genres: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Rating Report
Story (Plot)
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Performance
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Production Quality
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Attention Holding
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Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Nothing in Japanese literature prepares us for the stark, tension-filled, plot-driven realism of Natsuo Kirino's award-winning literary mystery Out.

This mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot's ringleader but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society.

At once a masterpiece of literary suspense and pitch-black comedy of gender warfare, Out is also a moving evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendships that bolster them in the aftermath.

©1997 Natsuo Kirino; English translation 2003 by Kodansha International Ltd. (P)2016 Audible, Inc.


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Out, an Edgar Award nominated crime novel out of Japan, is a deep, twisty, and complex thriller that is neither for the faint of heart, nor the uninitiated.

Natsuo Kirino does a masterful job penning this tale of murder, greed, corruption, and sexism taking a slow-boil approach and letting it all steep and simmer. Coming in at more than eighteen hours, this is not a quick whodunit kind of listen, but more of a howdunit – how, after a woman kills her husband, will she and her friends dispose of the body, and how will the act of mutilation that follows spiral out of control? How, exactly, will all their lives unravel in the wake of this rage-induced violence?

Out is a deeply layered story, with superb characterizations, and a number of plot threads intertwining and separating. These are women under stress, and Kirino paints intimate portraits of each, showing you both the good and the awful as they cope with the stress of not only their jobs at a box lunch factory, but with their personal lives and problems, and the growing complications of their complicity in a criminal conspiracy. New wrinkles subtly appear to keep both the characters and this book’s listeners on edge as the women are thrust into a strange, new world of police detectives, organized crime, betrayal, blackmail, and, ultimately, revenge as they find themselves scrutinized by an unknown outside force.

Emily Woo Zeller does an excellent job narrating the story, providing enough distinction between the four central women at the heart of this story, and hitting a (mostly) properly deep register for the males of the cast. At times, I thought she hit a little too-deeply for some of the men, giving the effect an almost comical vibe that didn’t jibe with the story, but it’s a minor enough caveat given the overall strength of her reading of the material. Out‘s production quality is top-notch, and the audio comes through cleanly and without a hitch, as I’ve come to expect as a listener of Audible Studio’s productions.

Out is a slow-going crime story, but one that’s well worth the time and attention required. It’s a dark story, punctuated with insight on Japanese culture and the treatment of women in their male-dominated society in between flashes of violence. Kirino does not shy away from violence – and, perhaps it should be noted that this is violence Kirino deals with here, not action as you may find in most other popular crime stories. The people in this book are not running around with guns and knives because it’s sexy and thrilling, but because they seek to do brutal damage to others, either to kill or to prevent themselves from being killed. This is a book where the actions of these characters carry a particularly heavy weight. Out is filled to the brim with bleak stuff, with depictions of rape, murder, and dismemberment, and Kirino puts his audience right in the middle of it all. These are characters who are seeking a way out, and at times it’s uncomfortable enough that the listener or reader may themselves be hoping for an easy escape as well.

About Natsuo Kirino

NATSUO KIRINO, born in 1951 in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) was an active and spirited child brought up between her two brothers, one being six years older and the other five years younger than her. Kirino’s father, being an architect, took the family to many cities, and Kirino spent her youth in Sendai, Sapporo, and finally settled in Tokyo when she was fourteen, which is where she has been residing since. Kirino showed glimpses of her talent as a writer in her early stages– she was a child with great deal of curiosity, and also a child who could completely immerse herself in her own unique world of imagination.

After completing her law degree, Kirino worked in various fields before becoming a fictional writer; including scheduling and organizing films to be shown in a movie theater, and working as an editor and writer for a magazine publication. She got married to her present husband when she turned twenty-four, and began writing professionally, after giving birth to her daughter, at age thirty. However, it was not until Kirino was forty-one that she made her major debut. Since then, she has written thirteen full-length novels and three volumes of collective short stories, which are highly acclaimed for her intriguingly intelligent plot development and character portrayal, and her unique perspective of Japanese society after the collapse of the economic bubble.

Today, Kirino continues to enthusiastically write in a range of interesting genres. Her smash hit novel OUT (Kodansha, 1997) became the first work to be translated into English and other languages. OUT was also nominated for the 2004 MWA Edgar Allan Poe Award in the Best Novel Category, which made Kirino the first Japanese writer to be nominated for this major literary award. Her other works are now under way to be translated and published around the world.

About michaelhicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novel Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. He is also the author of the short horror story, Consumption, and his work appears in the science fiction anthology, No Way Home. He lives in Michigan and is hard at work on his next story.

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