All She Was Worth (1999 paperback)
by Miyuki Miyabe [translated by Alfred Birnbaum]
Moving on from a postmodern mystery about confused identity to a more traditional mystery about identity theft, we arrive at Miyuki Miyabe's fine All She Was Worth. I can't remember where I first read about this book (originally published under the title of Kasha), but its absorbing story and steady increase in suspense make it easy for me to understand why it was selected Best Mystery and Best Novel of the year in Japan for 1992. Ostensibly a missing persons story about the sudden disappearance of a beautiful fiancée named Shoko Sekine, the novel derives much of its interest from its peek at the way rampant credit card abuse and identity theft in Japan have made the professional business world and the criminal underworld true partners in crime. Miyabe's characters, from Tokyo police detective Shunsuke Honma's thoughtful family man/grieving widower to the enigmatic woman eventually suspected of usurping Shoko Sekine's identity by means of a horrific crime, are compellingly drawn, and Miyabe manages to tell a tale that touches on brutal credit card collectors, extreme poverty, and the sex slave trade without resorting to the sometimes sensationalistic excesses of her U.S. genre writer counterparts. Perhaps best of all, All She Was Worth concludes with an exquisitely open-ended finale way more subtle and profound than the norm in these types of things. A very nice discovery: 4/5 stars. (http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/)
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