The Cage Perfect Paperback – Sep 5 2006
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"...a decent dark Japanese underworld thriller." - The Complete Review
"I was extremely pleased with this book, as I was with "Ashes" and "Winter Sleep"." -Novedge
About the Author
Kenzo Kitakata is the undisputed don of hardboiled and mystery writing in Japan, where he has received numerous literary awards. The Cage won the Japan Mystery Writers Association Award and is his third novel to appear in English. His American debut Ashes was one of Las Vegas Mercury's 10 Best Novels of 2003, a BookSense Selection, and a Village Voice Summer Read.
Top Customer Reviews
The underlying tone of emptiness, monotony, and disenchantment make this story part noir and part police procedural, as point of view switches increasingly to the detective who's investigating Sugimura's disappearance. Adding to the bleak tone and tension, is what's not being said between characters. Unfortunately, this also made it difficult to connect with them. Despite all of Takino's inner monologue, he wasn't a character I warmed up to. And given his actions, I didn't care what happened to him, or others, by the end of the story.
Also difficult was the similarity of many Japanese names. Takino, Takayasu and Takagi are three main character names which took time to sort out. And don't get me started on the numerous street and city names--they all just blurred together. Readers familiar with Japanese geography or the language won't find this a problem, and since this novel was translated to English, the primary audience was likely Japanese readers. If you want some insight to the country's middle-class life, gangs, and police methodology, then THE CAGE is worth reading.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The narrative tension builds gradually, but continues building right to the very last page. Along the way, we are served up a compelling plot, as well as rich insights into the details of life and crime in Tokyo. I caught myself humming audibly with anticipation as events came to their very satisfying conclusion.
I was extremely pleased with this book, as I was with "Ashes" and "Winter Sleep" (of which I am still the only reviewer as of today - hasn't anyone discovered Kitakata yet?) Please buy this book to encourage his publishers to hurry up an translate more of his work!
Takino owns a supermarket; his wife runs a coffee shop on the building's second floor. We suspect that Takino is a dangerous man with an interesting past when a supermarket chain tries to force him to sell his business -- an action the chain's representatives soon regret. Resolving that problem seems to give Takino a taste for the violence he thought he had left in the past. When Takino learns that his friend Takayasu is in a jam, he volunteers to help. The police are trying to find a yakuza named Sugimura because they want him to testify against the Maruwa gang concerning an apparent drug-related murder. For reasons that are not made clear until midway through the novel, the Murawa gang is also after Sugimura. To further complicate the story, Sugimura's lover Reiko is the daughter of a Murawa boss. Takayasu has agreed to smuggle Sugimura and Reiko out of Japan but he's being watched by the police and the gang. Takino takes over the job.
Kitakata reveals Takino's checkered past as the story unfolds. Although Takino's life as a supermarket owner is superficially bland (he drinks plenty of cold coffee and carves pipes out of briar in scenes that slow the action a bit too much), Takino occupies the remainder of his free time with a more interesting pursuit -- cheating on his wife. Readers who need to like the characters in order to enjoy a book might want to skip The Cage because Takino isn't a particularly sympathetic guy. He feels intense loyalty to his friend Takayasu but doesn't seem to feel much of anything for his wife or girlfriend. Apart from Takino, the characters (including a hard-drinking police detective, a private investigator who is a reformed criminal, and women who seem to specialize in worshiping their men without griping about what jerks they are) aren't particularly fresh. The main attraction of this novel is the plot, which includes some fast-paced action scenes, interesting twists, and a suspenseful climax.
Given the novel's uneven pace, lackluster characters, and trite noir prose, it's difficult to work up much enthusiasm for the novel, even though the story is good. I would give 4 1/2 stars to the plot, 3 1/2 to the characters, and 2 to the prose, for an overall 3 1/2 star rating.
This is a brilliant noir crime novel set in 80s Japan. It's bleak and hardboiled. Well-paced, the book is a smooth read that builds to a crescendo of consuming (yet not senseless) violence. Highly recommended.