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IN THE MISO SOUP by Ryu Murakami Kirkus Star


by Ryu Murakami

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 4-7700-2957-8
Publisher: Kodansha

Hipster Murakami (Coin Locker Babies, 1995, etc.) follows a sex tour guide through the sleazy demimonde of Tokyo’s worst streets during three nights on the town with a serial killer.

Kenji has one of those jobs you just can’t tell your mother about. As a “nightlife guide,” he basically spends most of his evenings shepherding American tourists through strip clubs and brothels. At 20, Kenji is young enough to try just about anything—except, to his family’s chagrin, college—but even he is kind of grossed out by some of his customers. His latest is an overweight American named Frank, who is not just gross but weird. Alternately servile and truculent, Frank claims to be a Toyota parts importer from Manhattan, but he shows little interest in cars and doesn’t seem to know much about New York. That’s not so surprising in itself—most of Kenji’s customers lie about their backgrounds—but Frank doesn’t seem terribly interested in sex, either. And the fact that he changes hotel rooms every few days makes Kenji wonder whether he might not be connected in some way to a string of grisly murders that have been terrorizing Tokyo for the last few weeks. Most of the victims have been girls involved in “compensated dating” (i.e., prostitution), so everybody in the sex industry is pretty much on edge. Kenji’s 16-year-old girlfriend Jun thinks he’s overreacting, but she advises him to drop Frank anyway just to be on the safe side. Of course, that would be too simple and, as it turns out, too sensible. Soon Kenji finds himself at the bottom of something uglier than even he could ever have imagined. Maybe, if he makes it out okay, he’ll consider going back to school after all.

A blistering portrait of contemporary Japan, its nihilism and decadence wrapped up within one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs. Shocking but gripping.