Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Junko Aoki has the gift of pyrokinesis: she can set anything on fire with her energy. When she retreats to an abandoned factory to displace some of her energy into a huge pool of water there she inadvertently witnesses a murder.

The Asaba gang has kidnapped a woman and killed her date; they are trying to throw his body into the pool of water so that it won't be detected.

Junko is so incensed at what she sees that she kills three of the gang members by burning them, and as the leader escapes she promises herself that she will seek to destroy him as well.

A parallel part of the story tells of Chikako Ishizu, the only woman in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, who seeks the person who is setting these fires as well as burning criminals.

A third strand tells of the Guardians, a special group which made me think of the Mob in a way: they have taken it upon themselves to "deliver justice" and formed a band of members with special abilities who also try to do away with criminals. The Guardians woo Junko into their midst, luring her with gifts and the promise of love from one of its members.

There are several fascinating aspects to this story:
  • the whole idea of pyrokinesis (and other abilities such as telekinesis)
  • the loneliness of those who are set apart by their gifts or hidden talents
  • the way families are effected by those with such gifts
  • the question of justice

When we discover that the crossfire is between the victim and the criminal, between the law and those who have taken it upon themselves to deliver justice, we're faced with two critical questions:

Does anyone have the right to kill another?

Is there ever a right reason to take a life?

I found this book profound on many levels, not only as a mystery/thriller, but also a treatise on ethics. It was excellent.


DreamQueen said...

I'm definitely going to have to find myself a copy of this book - thanks for the great review!

Princess Haiku said...

I saw a film about this but had no idea it was a book first. Interesting review and will looks like a good read.

grenadine said...

Great review and fascinating book. I'm adding this to my to-read pile.

Michael Wong 38 said...

hi bellezza, you wouldn't happen to have a ebook copy of coin locker babies would you? i've been meaning to read that japanese novel for years, but 1) it's hard to get 2) i'm too cheap to buy it, i thought if you had it I could borrow it and then return the favor somehow. cheers, i love your blog. i remember stopping by but i didn't know it was THIS good. cheers michael from bigmoneylist

Bellezza said...

Michael, I'm sorry I don't have a copy of it. I will, however, do a search and see if I can find it inexpensively. Thanks for the comment about enjoying the blog; this one is especially wonderful because of all the contributing members of the Japanese literature challenge.

Robin said...

Wow! This sounds really good. I've never heard of it, but I'm going to have to track it down and read it.

Bellezza said...

Robin, who knows, it may be part of a prize package. ;)