A sullen student descends into obsession and mayhem when he impulsively steals a gun in this paranoid Japanese noir.
The book opens in a scene that is drenched—literally—in noir atmosphere. Aimlessly wandering the city at night in a pouring rain, Nishikawa stumbles upon a corpse in a pool of blood with a gun nearby. Deciding to take the weapon with him, he squirrels it away in his tiny apartment, treating it as both hidden treasure and nearly religious totem. He spends his time polishing it, finding just the right silky handkerchiefs on which to rest it. Soon he’s drifting off in conversation, his thoughts returning to the gun, becoming detached even as he’s becoming more aggressive, especially in the strictly sexual arrangement he conducts with a young woman he meets on an evening out. The meaning of the book can’t be separated from the scarcity of privately owned guns and relative infrequency of gun violence in Japan. This account of Nishikawa’s becoming more and more a slave to the gun, more and more delighted with his unleashed aggression, and, inevitably, succumbing to the nearly erotic thrill of actually using it on live targets, might almost be a thesis on the seductive potential of handguns. (This behavior would be far less striking in an American setting.) But a character who’s a drag to begin with is not one whose conversion to violence provides much tension or loss.
This thriller has a jammed mechanism.