Japanese noir gets a pyrotechnic spin

For whatever reason, I’ve yet to read a book by Miyuki Miyabe even though I strongly suspect I’d like her stuff (at least, based on my reaction to Natsuo Kirino’s OUT, which was brilliant.) Thankfully, she gets lots more attention from the LA Times’ Bruce Wallace as a result of the publication of her third novel translated to English, CROSSFIRE — which stars a young girl who has the power to take down her enemies by fire just using her mind. Unusual premises are important, Miyabe explains, because it’s getting difficult to shock her readers:

By American standards — or, those, say, of Colombia or Russia — Japan

remains preposterously safe (statistically, you are more likely to be

murdered in Norway). But Miyabe, with her prolific output of what the

Japanese call “entertainment novels” (never “literature”), says the

steady stream of sensational crimes makes it harder to frighten readers.

“Crime is getting worse and worse; weird crimes are happening

every day, and I’m amazed,” says the cheerful 45-year-old, whose soft,

singsong Tokyo accent is hard to twin with the voice of the novelist

who can describe sickening violence. “As a mystery writer, it is

getting more difficult to write fiction.”

But when she does, Miyabe gets much praise, especially from women:

Miyabe says female readers who wrote her tended to approve of Junko and

her methods. “Women are often victims,” she explains. “Female readers

liked a strong Junko because she got rid of so many men.

“Ordinary people and criminals are not that different from us.

Even now, when you hear of a crime, you’re often surprised that such a

person could do it. But somehow they went over that wall.

“The wall is really high, but somehow they get over it. I want to explore why they do such a thing. That’s the mystery.”