Although this book has been on my wish list for some time I specifically read it for the Japanese Literature Challenge. I have also seen this book on people’s lists for the RIP III challenge so I am going to link it there as well.
This story opens with four women working the night shift in a factory making boxed lunches. When one of them murders her abusive husband the others assist with the disposal of the body. In typical noir fashion, things go from bad to worse as these four desperate and broken women try to cope with the police investigation, a loan shark and another murderer. I don’t normally read crime fiction but I generally like dark stories and boy is this dark, sadistic, brutal and shocking. Although I enjoyed it, it is not for the faint of heart.
I thought it was very well written (and translated) and that the author really captured both her characters and settings very well. It really transported me to the outskirts of Tokyo to the lunch box factory, the night club or the characters' homes. Even though not a single one of the characters is likeable and all have committed despicable acts they were so incredibly real that I cared about them and wanted to find out what happened in their story. You could really feel the desperation that each of these characters experienced. There is certainly an undercurrent of gender conflict in the novel but it never becomes preachy or obtrusive.
The only criticism I have is that the ending was a little odd. The ultimate showdown is told twice from two different perspectives. Although it was interesting to get the two perspectives of the same battle, I think this could have been achieved a little more artfully without a complete second retelling which I felt disrupted the flow of the story. I would also warn that the ending was incredibly brutal and disturbing and I can think of many friends that would not be comfortable reading it.