From: Mark Hall ( markhall@gol.com)
Date: 24 Oct 2003

Out, Damned Spot! By: Yuki Allyson Honjo

The story is simple. On a hot summer night, a young wife and mother, Yayoi Yamamoto, strangles her husband with a belt. She calls her co-workers at the bento factory to help cover-up the crime. They slice up his body with sashimi knives from the kitchen, neatly double bag the remains, and drop them in trash bins all over Tokyo. Unfortunately for Yayoi, the remains are discovered. Soon the police, among others, are on the case.

In the conventional sense, the book is not a mystery: We already know whodunit. But two key questions arise. “Will they get away with it?” and “Do we want them to?”

Natsuo Kirino’s novel Out draws a stark picture of alienation in suburban middle-class Japan. Since the 1960s, close to nine out of ten Japanese described themselves as middle-class in government surveys. Certainly the women of Kirino’s novel would portray themselves that way, but she shows the hairline faults in a society that prides itself on its equity and relative prosperity. Apply a little pressure and the perfect picture disintegrates.

Rest at


Mark Hall markhall@gol.com

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