I’ve read few books by Japanese authors before but I never tried Miyuki Miyabe works. In fact I never heard anything about her or her works until now. I may never have discover All She Was Worth if not for gathering books whodunit reading challenge. Which I’m glad I did because this book delivers so well.
All She Was Worth is originally published under the Japanese title “Kasha” (火車) in 1992 and translated to English in 1996. It tells the story of Shunsuke Honma a police detective who tried to solve a case of a missing person. Honma is currently on leave due to injury when Jun, his distant cousin from his wife’s side approached him to find Shoko Sekine. Shoko is Jun’s fiance who disappeared after applying for a credit card. It turns out that Shoko had lived too extravagantly years ago, running up huge credit card debts and eventually having to declare personal bankruptcy. So when Jun confronted her about it she just left. As Honma tries solve the mystery of Shoko’s disappearance we realized that this is more than just a case of missing person. Pretty early on in the investigation, Honma realizes why Shoko never told Jun she was a bankrupt, and it is because she honestly didn’t know. It turns out that Shoko Sekine (Jun’s Fiance) is not the real Shoko Sekine. Which leads Honma to investigate more the mystery of stolen identity, escape and murder.
This book offers an interesting glimpse of Japan. The authors description of Japanese society is intriguing and refreshing. I’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture that I wasn’t previously aware of. Miyabe spends a lot of time describing how the Japanese credit lending system works. She also shows the elaborate methods that Japan uses to control personal identity with the family registers and the different types of red tape in Japan like the loan sharks. The idea of loan sharks and yakuza is still intriguing to me. I’ve seen most of it from Asian movies and TV series but I never really understood deeply how they work until I read this book.
While I was drawn into the mystery and to the Japanese culture, I was also impressed with the sharp social commentary of the danger of materialism and credit system. On how people get caught up in debt and pull themselves deeper in grave of financial liabilities. This book was written two decades ago but sad to say this consumer problem still exist today. We are still caught up in a credit craze where some of us end up buried in debt.
All She Was Worth is a gripping book that offers a different twist to detective mystery novel. It mostly focused on finding out how the crime was achieved and not why or by whom. This is a worth read that offers an interesting portrayal of Japan. I definitely want to read more of Miyabe’s work in the future.