Thursday, 21 May 2009
A ghost that casts a disproportionate shadow beside our social reality
No, there are no ghosts in Miyuki Miyabe's novel All She Was Worth, but there is a shady financial underworld which is often linked to violence and murder most foul.
In this case, the "ghost" is an increasingly dangerous money market which allows people who can't afford it to buy more and more on credit. Having over-extended themselves, they end up turning to the grey market of loan sharks, etc, which increases the problem exponentially.
Such a context doesn't make an obvious choice for a thrilling detective novel but All She Was Worth was a really enjoyable read. Honma, a detective on leave after being shot in the knee, is approached by a distant relative of his deceased wife - Jun needs helps tracking down his fiancee who has gone missing with no warning and has left no traces.
Honma's search for Shoko, the missing woman, quickly turns into more than a missing person hunt as Honma learns all about the disturbing holes in the country's protections on privacy in financial matters and how easy it is to take over someone else's identity at any cost...and how Shoko's involved.
Knowing several people who've had their identity stolen or partially stolen (self included), I suspect that the social disaster Miyabe sees occurring in Japan is pretty easily reflected in North America. So, in spite of being highly cerebral and pretty much devoid of action of any sort, All She Was Worth was actually a pretty terrifying - and therefore enjoyable - read.
I feel a rather extreme measure of relief here for having enjoyed this book, given how dismal my last foray into Japanese pulp was. I just want to know that if I feel like reading pulp, it's more likely to be good than otherwise; and right now, the balance is tipping in favour of the positive view.