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Crime Files – Out by Natsuo Kirino #BookReview

Natsuo Kirino’s novel tells a story of random violence in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works a night shift making boxed lunches brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.

The ringleader of this cover-up, Masako Katori, emerges as the emotional heart of Out and as one of the shrewdest, most clear-eyed creations in recent fiction. Masako’s own search for a way out of the straitjacket of a dead-end life leads her, too, to take drastic action.

Out by Natsuo Kirino book cover

Title: Out | Author: Natsuo Kirino | Publisher: Vintage | Pages: 520 | ISBN: 9780099472285 | Publication date: 2 September 2004 | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Purchased

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Out Review

Natsuo Kirino is a prolific and popular writer of detective and crime fiction who has achieved significant success in her native Japan. Only a few of her books are available in English translation, ‘Out’ being the first and best known.

It’s a book I found unexpectedly challenging. At over 500 pages it’s long and, despite its apparently simple plot, it’s a complex read. The book follows a group of women who work together on the night shift in a factory making box lunches. When one of the women kills her abusive husband, the group band together to dispose of the body. The plot progresses in unexpected ways and at a slow pace, but manages to be gripping and involving. 

It must be said that it’s also unrelentingly bleak. Focusing on the lives of the characters, it examines the experiences of economically disadvantaged women in modern Japan. Day to day existence feels like a struggle for all of them, with the demands of night working juggled alongside the need to care for children and elderly relatives. Kirino also writes about toxic masculinity in Japanese society, with the male characters largely abdicating responsibility or actively engaged in acts of physical or psychological abuse against women. 

Equally shocking is the graphic violence in the book. The scenes of dismemberment, murder and rape are horribly detailed and very difficult to take at times. In common with many classics of crime fiction, this is a book about the capacity for brutality and criminality that exist in ordinary people. As such it is a hard read. It’s the quality of the writing prevents it from becoming too much, particularly the humanity of the characters. For all the horror that surrounds them, I found that I couldn’t give up on them. 

‘Out’ may not be an easy novel, but it’s definitely a worthwhile one. As an examination of the human condition and the impacts of violence on both victims and perpetrators it‘s as impactful as pretty much any western crime novel I could name.  

Content Warning:


You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inBook ReviewsCrime FilesStarred Reviews

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