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LADY JOKER, VOLUME 1 by Kaoru Takamura


by Kaoru Takamura ; translated by Allison Markin Powell & Marie Iida

Pub Date: April 13th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-616-95701-8
Publisher: Soho Crime

A daring kidnapping-and-extortion plot has deep roots in the aftermath of World War II.

Takamura uses a sensational high-profile crime from 1984 as the foundation for a layered examination of Japan’s current social and economic inequities. In 1947, 40 employees of Kanagawa’s Hinode Beer factory quit their jobs over serious health problems whose origins they traced to the factory. Seiji Okamura, one of them, wrote a lengthy letter explaining the situation. In the ensuing decades, a handful of other people from various walks of life—a pharmacy owner, a police detective, a truck driver, a credit union worker, a lathe operator—experience maladies or observe problems in their loved ones that they blame on the factory. After their common love of horse racing brings them together, their plan evolves slowly over years of sharing personal details and nursing their common grievance against Hinode’s criminality. The first third of the story follows all of the men. Takamura’s decision to make them a socio-economic cross section provides depth and texture when the focus becomes more pointed. Okamura, who's the younger brother of the pharmacist, enters a nursing home in 1990. His death triggers a plan that the men had only discussed as a kind of game. Hinode’s president, Kyosuke Shiroyama, is kidnapped but then released. A more elaborate scheme plays out as a giant chess game, tracked by a colorful police team. The tale ends on a cliffhanger—the resolution will have to wait for Volume 2.

Takamura’s challenging, genre-confounding epic offers a sweeping view of contemporary Japan in all its complexity.