Although being marketed as a mystery/police writer in the US, in her native Japan Miyuki Miyabe is a master of all genres. Science fiction, social commentary, juvenile fiction, mystery fiction...there are very few arenas where she has not sown her considerable talent. This third book to get an English translation is quite a departure from the reality-based "All She Was Worth" and "Shadow Family," entering a world of super-powered assassins and powerful conspiracy organizations.
"Crossfire" follows the lives of two very different women. Junko Aoki is a young and beautiful pyrokinetic, capable of unleashing devastating heat-based attacks using only her mind. She is a warrior in a personal war, seeing herself as a weapon, a scourge against the inhuman crime that she sees day to day in modern Japan. Chikako Ishizu is a middle aged detective in the arson department, an unexceptional woman of average abilities who owes her position to a political maneuver placing more women in detective positions. There paths merge when Chikako investigates a murder, the victim burned alive in an impossible manner. Her investigation forces her to leave her accepted reality, and enter a shadow world she never new existed. Behind it all, manipulating circumstances, is a group called The Guardians, a powerful group dedicated to delivering justice when the courts have failed.
Regardless of the genre, Miyabe's strength is her characters, specifically her women characters who come alive and bring an honesty to incredible circumstances. She doesn't force relationships, love stories, or anything else that would interfere with the main plot. Chikako is a married woman, with children, muddling her way through a murky world the best she can, well aware of the power that others wield over her and the directions she is being pushed. Junko is cold, having sealed away her emotions in order to control her explosive power. They could not be more different, but Miyabe maintains the appropriate tones as she switches between the characters.
While not a masterpiece like "All She Was Worth," "Crossfire" is a great read, fast paced and with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader's blood pumping. Its great to be able to sample some of Miyabe's more fantastical adventures, and I hope that future translations allow for a fuller scope of her talent.