Tuesday 31 December 2013

Book Review: Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe

Translated by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi and Anna Husson Isozaki

Pros: interesting protagonists, thought provoking

Cons: conflicting feelings about the ending

Junko Aoki believes she has pyrokinesis for a reason, so when she accidentally encounters a crime she decides to hunt down those who perpetrated it.  

Detective Shikako Ishizu of the arson squad isn't assigned to investigate the bizarre fire deaths, but they remind her of a case she saw seven years earlier.  She quickly realizes that someone is hunting criminals down, but doesn't believe the pyrokinesis theory proposed by a colleague from another division.

The longer Junko hunts the criminals, the more she questions the innocence of those surrounding her targets, increasing her body count and making her capture of prime importance.

This is a crime novel with an SF element that's given a lot of scepticism.  The story is well written with some through provoking moments.  Junko's a likeable protagonist whose power starts to corrupt her ideals.  Detective Ishizu is also a great character.  She's a middle aged woman who's worked her way to a good position in the police force, yet still has to fight for respect from her male colleagues.

There are some specifically Japanese things mentioned that readers unfamiliar with the intricacies of Japanese life will not understand.  For example, in the first chapter Junko has a bowl of water in the sink for washing dishes.  This is because Japanese sinks cannot be plugged and filled the way western sinks can.  While I noticed a few of these things, they're so minor that readers who don't understand the references won't find their enjoyment of the novel lessened in any way.

I found it curious that everyone - and I mean everyone - in the book drank coffee and offered coffee to their guests.  My experience in Japan was that everyone drink and offered tea, so this kept bumping me out of the narrative.  I would love to know if this is a translation modification for the English speaking audience or if the author actually used coffee in the original in all of these scenes.

I felt somewhat conflicted by the book's ending.  I accepted what happened as plausible but wished things could have gone better for one of the characters. 

There's a decent amount of violence, though if you're looking for an adventure novel you won't find that here.  There is some mystery, great characters and an interesting plot.

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