Another ILAM review that was published in 2006. I hope you enjoy it.

CROSSFIRE by Miyuki Myabe

One of the great pleasures in crime fiction is learning of worlds and people we don’t know and probably never will. Whether it’s Sweden or Australia, ancient Rome or a monastery in the Dark Ages, first-rate crime writers can whisk us away on adventures we would never otherwise have. And if such an alien environment is defined by one or two particular authors, then surely crime fiction in modern Japan wears the face of Miyuki Miyabe.

Defining foreign crime novels in American terms is always difficult, especially a world as different as Japan, so let’s think of Crossfire combining the dark brutality of Blade Runner with the twisted honor of The Godfather. And in a world traditionally reserved solely for men, Miyabe gives us two female detectives as driven to rage against the evils of their machine as they are different. Chikako Ishizu is a typical by-the-book cop who is as archetypal in her way as a Marine drill sergeant. Junko Aoki is a gorgeous younger cop who could succeed at any she chooses, and she has chosen to fight the evil she sees invading the canyons and neon of Tokyo. It helps that she has the power to start fires.

And yet the themes are universal. Gangs, the interests of the moneyed class, chases, all the usual ingredients of urban crime novels are here in abundance as the two detectives track down the bad guys in a surreal world of burning embers prophetic dreams. Unlike many foreign novels where the different names and places can be hard to visualize or understand, Miyabe has the ability to make Japan seem easily real. Spare prose and uncluttered dialogue move the pace quickly. Writers unfamiliar with their landscape sometimes overwhelm the reader with the minutia of their research, but not so here. The author writes of home and it shows.

One paragraph encapsulates the universality of this novel, despite its exotic setting.

She’d seen a lot of bad things. She’d seen a lot of evil people. Kiechi Asaba’s brand of evil could be found anywhere. It was unbelievably common. Guys like that were the dregs of society, and as long as society was a living, functioning organism,
they could never be eradicated. They had to be exterminated when encountered. That was all.”

Crossfire is a fast-paced journey into a desperate world where good and evil fight head on, without trappings and without mercy, where all that matters is who wins and who loses. Readers who enjoy stripped down, raw-knuckled rocket-rides down the Quixotic path of fighting the tidal wave of evil will find Crossfire a book to remember.