All She Was Worth Paperback – May 12 1999
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Recovering from a leg injury, a 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector named Shunsuke Honma realizes how out of touch he has become when a relative asks him to make some private inquiries into the disappearance of his fiancée. While he wasn't paying attention, it seems that everyone in the country but Honma has been caught up in a consumer feeding frenzy--going into heavy debt and declaring bankruptcy at a snowballing rate. This engrossing story of the search for happiness through shopping marks the first appearance in English of one of Japan's leading writers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The horror in this beautifully fashioned tale of stolen identity lies not in the cold-blooded crimes but in the motive?a desperate hunger for consumer goods. Shunsuke Honma, a widowed 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector with a 10-year-old son, is on disability leave. The boring cycle of idleness punctuated by painful physical therapy sessions comes to a halt when a nephew asks for Honma's help in finding his missing fiancee, whom he knows as Shoko Sekine. As Honma's search intensifies, he realizes the fiancee had actually assumed Sekine's identity and possibly killed her. For the American reader, the jewel in this enormously compelling novel is the portrait of working- and middle-class Japanese getting caught in a cycle of astronomical personal debt in order to enjoy the good life. Also eye-opening is Japan's elaborate registry system for keeping track of its citizenry. In order to become Shoko Sekine, the impostor had to perpetrate an ingeniously elaborate series of hoaxes and lies. Honma is tenacious, methodical, an attentive listener with a retentive memory and the ability to connect disparate bits of information. The trail takes him back through the real Sekine's history and into the life of the other woman, whose family ran afoul of vicious loan sharks. Miyabe drives her complex plot with spare prose, combining expert pacing and psychological nuance to ultimately haunting effect. (Feb.) FYI: All She Was worth was named Best Novel of the year and Best Mystery for 1992 in Japan.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
What follows is an ingenious yet somewhat murky murder mystery about the search for a woman on the run; come to think of it, it is a search for two women, one running and one not.
I've read Japanese authors translated before (Murakami, for instance) but this was my first Japanese suspense novel. I'll be subtle and say that this is a fabulous and riveting thriller! And take it from someone in Tokyo: as a bonus, you also get a very accurate tour of contemporary Japan and the consumer culture that preys upon the individuals and society that created it.
One of the most compelling faces of detective fiction is the notion that the culprit leaves behind a trail of clues to his past, however hard he may have tried to erase that trail. That is the heart of this novel. The fact that in the past an individual in Japan was defined by his or her place in the family, and that now citizens have a residence certificate as proof of identity. That, coupled with the legal requirement that children are responsible for their parents' debts. One common way out is personal bankruptcy; our protagonist in the novel chooses to escape by assuming an entirely different inidividual's identity.
It is rather fitting then that the novel should be set in a society like modern day Japan's, where escaping an unhappy past may well be considered to be the ultimate crime.
The protagonist, with his dogged determination to uncover the truth, is an engaging world-weary PI familiar to the genre, and yet still enjoyable. His precocious adolescent boy adds a measure of humanity to him, and you know that at some point, the boy will unwittingly say something important to the investigation. The people he interviews, from a personal bankruptcy lawyer, to a mail-order executive, to hostess bar ladies, all have their own motives and personalities which bring the story to life. A mechanic who becomes his assistant is another great character, brimming with humanity.
The story revolves around consumer credit and its corrupting influences on young people-a problem that while still relevant, is hardly likely to be as surprising to the reader as it is to the detective. There are several sections on the book where long lectures on the history and evils of consumer credit, and the mechanisms of personal bankruptcy are explained. These tend to be clumsy and forced, and the story suffers from them. While it's moderately informative to know that Japan shares the problem with the US (and other wealthy nations), it's not nearly as interesting as the other main device of the novel, the family register.Read more ›
What bothered me about the book is the similitude with some "educational" Manga -- see for instance Shotaro Ishinomori's work published in the US in Japan inc. . Like in Ishinomori's strip, Miyabe stops the narration of the facts with long digressions about the Japanese economic situation. It's definitely interesting and it's all good, but it considerably slows down the rythm. Possibly the biggest disappointment however has been the fact that the "contemporary Japan" portrayed is actually ancient history: while US edition of the book came out in 1999, the novel is from 1992, and while Japanese economy has been depressed all along, quite a few things have been changing, for instance in the woman condition (see for instance by Japanese Woman by Sumiko Iwao).
Overall nice novel, but why publishing something so dated? I understand Ms. Miyabe has quite a following in her native country, I'm sure starting with more current work might better introduce her to the English language readers.
I must say that it is a wonderful mystery. It provides several interesting insights. It makes you realize the complexity a detective of any type must face, especially this one. It also makes you admire the person he's assigned to find from the available clues and unknowns to all the trails the detective must follow and reexamine. Several times, I was amazed at all things a detective has to remember when he's presented with new clues and information.
This book also showed me a lot about Japanese culture from basic everyday living to financial history. From her book, I learned a lot about the hardships of ordinary people in that country just to make ends meet. After reading this book, you realize the complexity of the whole entire case.
I am not an expert of mystery novels but I enjoyed reading it through the entire time. I see why mystery novels can be so compelling to read for some.
Most recent customer reviews
It's been months and I still remember the story of this book vividly. I can think of few better compliments! Read morePublished 23 months ago by SirVincealot
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. Read morePublished on June 9 2004 by Marc Ruby™
It is extremely interesting to read the customer reviews such as the one which gives this book a low rating because it has "an unsatisfying ending". Read morePublished on Dec 3 2003
This long and preachy novel by Miyabe falls far short of expectations. The primary character detective Honma sets out on a hunt for his nephew's fiancee who has gone missing. Read morePublished on Oct. 19 2003 by raboof
The book kept me glued from begining to end. Miyabe-san is on her way to one day catch up with the author I consider the most prolific Japanese mistery writter, Mr. Read morePublished on March 11 2003 by Andres Klingberg
This is one of the books that I have wanted to read for quite some time but for some reason or another have put it off. Read morePublished on Dec 25 2002 by Daitokuji31
I had never read anything of Miyabe's before so I wasn't sure what to expect. I had heard about all of the hype this book received in Japan, so I was curious to see what it would... Read morePublished on June 27 2002 by C. E. Stevens
Miyabe Miyuki (the Japanese way, last name first) is a distingushed writer in Japan. She has written dozens of novels, both period pieces and modern stories, such as this one. Read morePublished on May 13 2002 by Isabella K. Badenoch
In Japan, a police inspector on leave to recover from a gunshot wound is enlisted by his nephew to find his missing fiancee. Read morePublished on April 12 2002 by David Bonesteel