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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Want Of A Penny
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. In Japan, Miyabe is a highly successful writer whose novels have been adapted into 10 films as well. Here she is only barely known, represented only by a single detective story - All She Was Worth...
Published on June 9, 2004 by Marc Ruby™

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Occasionally Forced and Clumsy
Miyabe's first book in translation is a solid mystery with an engaging investigator, but suffers slightly from an occasionally lecturing tone. The story revolves around a widowed middle-aged Tokyo police detective who's on injury leave when a distant relative asks him to look into the disappearance of his fiancée. This missing persons case soon turns into what we...
Published on June 12, 2002 by A. Ross


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Want Of A Penny, June 9, 2004
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This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
It is a shame that this single volume is the only novel of Miyuki Miyabe's that has made it into translation. In Japan, Miyabe is a highly successful writer whose novels have been adapted into 10 films as well. Here she is only barely known, represented only by a single detective story - All She Was Worth.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/x-locale/common/customer-reviews/stars-5-0.gifThe novel tells the story of Shinsuke Honma, a middle-aged police detective who is off duty while recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. The enforced inactivity has begun to wear thin on him, and a request from a distant relative to investigate the disappearance of his fiance - Shoko Sekine - tempts him into a freelance investigation that is part meticulous investigation and part social commentary. Shoko disappeared when it was revealed that she had gone through a personal bankruptcy. Honma discovers layer after layer of misdirection and subterfuge - the disappearance is only a reflection of the grim truth.

The telling of the story reveals many of the inherent differences between Japanese and Western writing, even as it pares away at a social problem - easy credit and indebtedness - that is universal in both cultures. The telling is extremely detailed, with a strong focus not on the plot, but on the social and family milieus of the characters. The style is very naturalistic, and may irk American readers who are so used to stories that are action based and plot driven. Yet there are opportunities here for the writer to indulge of some niceties of language, many of which come through despite it being a translation.

What Miyabe has chronicled is the lives of ordinary Japanese, carrying on with their lives, not the flashy high tech or Samurai mythos face of Japan that we see most often in imported Japanese culture. This is quite eye-opening, even as we realize that quiet desperation is not just a Western phenomenon. In a sense, the plot itself isn't very important. In fact, the reader will know from fairly early in the novel what the crime is and who committed it. But the details of Honma's investigation, the bits of his family life, the fine grains of Shoko Sekine's own adventures, fit together like a puzzle, forming a compelling whole of their own. As such, this is an excellent introduction into what makes Japanese popular fiction tick.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful MasterCard Murders in Modern Japan, August 17, 2000
By 
Alexandra Chusid (Gaithersburg, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
What a chilling and fabulous novel! As a dilettante in world of mystery, I picked up this novel accidentally in my quest for a new Japanese author. What a delight to discover that Miyabe's concerns range far beyond those of the typical "who-done-it."
Each character, from the protagonist--a disabled police officer struggling with his sudden uselessness after a bullet wound takes him out of the game--to the suspect/victim--a girl whose crime of credit excess is mirrored by nearly every middle-class American, reflects profoundly what it means to be a product of a consumer society.
Characters consume, or are consumed. It's a Machievellian glance at society which asks (in the words of Billy Crystal)if it isn't better to look good than to feel good, at least until the bills come due.
I highly recommend this novel as an engrossing mystery, but more importantly, as an impressive social critique of this era.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - Terrible Ending, December 20, 2005
By 
Jess83 (Redmond, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
All She Was Worth really caught my eye, and I started reading it the moment it arrived. I found the book to be an intriguing, eye opening look into modern Japanese culture, and also what can happen when you spend more then you have.

The book was written very well, and it had me hooked from the first page. I read the book in several days, and as a slow reader, this is very unusual for me. I could not put this book down, I enjoyed nearly every page, up until the last one. I will not spoil the ending, but I will say that after reading the last page, as someone else mentioned, I sat there searching the blank pages, hoping to find anything to sum it up.

I feel that the book was built up to this final moment, on the final page, and then there is no conclusion. The ending definitely left much to be desired, but I still enjoyed the book immensely. My only other complaint about the book would be that at times, it was to in depth in explaining how bankrupty works. Sometimes it felt more like a text book then a fictional novel.

If you are ok with cliff hangers, then this is a great read, and definitely worth the purchase. If you need loose ends tied up, and the book's main questions answered, then this is not the book for you.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, March 10, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
Wonderful Read! As a mystery, it's got all the intrigue and plot red herrings you would expect. However, if you are even remotely interested in Japanese society or just want to follow someone around Japan, this book does it well. I am left wondering how well does the translation keeps to the original since more than once I saw what I would have suspected as an English idiom crop up with a Japanese touch. Most notabably a variation on "Keeping up with the Jones". However, as an English reader, this touch only made the story more accessable as a whole. Very entertaining and leaves me wanting more!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Occasionally Forced and Clumsy, June 12, 2002
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
Miyabe's first book in translation is a solid mystery with an engaging investigator, but suffers slightly from an occasionally lecturing tone. The story revolves around a widowed middle-aged Tokyo police detective who's on injury leave when a distant relative asks him to look into the disappearance of his fiancée. This missing persons case soon turns into what we would now call a case of identity theft as the detective delves into the woman's background.
The protagonist, with his dogged determination to uncover the truth, is an engaging world-weary PI familiar to the genre, and yet still enjoyable. His precocious adolescent boy adds a measure of humanity to him, and you know that at some point, the boy will unwittingly say something important to the investigation. The people he interviews, from a personal bankruptcy lawyer, to a mail-order executive, to hostess bar ladies, all have their own motives and personalities which bring the story to life. A mechanic who becomes his assistant is another great character, brimming with humanity.
The story revolves around consumer credit and its corrupting influences on young people-a problem that while still relevant, is hardly likely to be as surprising to the reader as it is to the detective. There are several sections on the book where long lectures on the history and evils of consumer credit, and the mechanisms of personal bankruptcy are explained. These tend to be clumsy and forced, and the story suffers from them. While it's moderately informative to know that Japan shares the problem with the US (and other wealthy nations), it's not nearly as interesting as the other main device of the novel, the family register. The Japanese system of tracking people via family registers is a method unknown in the US, and as the story shows, easily subverted. Unfortunately, this potentially interesting device is rather confusing to the outsider, and some passages may require rereading in order to absorb the procedures involved. Ultimately, these two elements feel very mechanical when contrasted with the excellent characters found in the story itself, and the climax is enervatingly unsatisfying.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsuspenseful with a disappointing end., December 16, 2008
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
I picked up All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe a few months ago because I liked Brave Story, a novel geared towards younger audiences. All She Was Worth was Miyabe's first adult book that I've read and one of the few mystery novels I've read this year.

All She Was Worth starts off with the disappearance of a woman and follows an on-leave detective as he tries to find her and uncover the unusual circumstances in which she disappeared. Although that's the main mystery flowing through the book, I didn't find it that engaging. I already guessed what had happened to her and the characters of the book felt so distanced.

The story takes place in present-day Japan and the Miyabe does thorough albeit sometimes dull job of describing Japanese consumer culture. There were points in the book where I felt the author was being too didactic and the things the characters were saying sounded artificial. It was almost like reading a guide-book about Japanese culture.

The payoff of a good mystery book is the "aha!" moment when everything just clicks. Unfortunately, that never really happened in All She Was Worth because the reader will know exactly what happened by the first half of the book. Most of the book is proving and finding evidence of what happened.

I was egged on to read the book by my curiosity concerning the motives of fugitive character. It was disappointing to see the story ending so abruptly and not answering any of the questions I had. The ending felt like a cliffhanger of a show that never got to run its next season.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, March 8, 2005
By 
T. Gray (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
Although I don't read many mystery novels, I am a fan of modern Japanese fiction, so I checked this book out after reading some of the reviews here. I just finished it last night, and I thought it was really excellent. The characters- Honma, his son, his neighbors, those who he interviews, those who help him out on the case, and those he is trying to track down- are all very interesting, with lots of great characterization. Miyabe skillfully developed each of the characters, giving them there own real personality, way of talking, etc. Also, she uses a lot of details that really set the scene, and if you've been to Japan, these details can make reading the novel even more enjoyable. (e.g. When Honma encounters a woman who speaks with an Osaka accent, the different cities he visits, etc.)

The mystery about his nephew's missing fiancé (which turns into a search for two different woman and two different identities) becomes more engrossing with each chapter and with each bit of information Honma learns. (And he really works for all the info. There's a lot of travel and phone calling in the book. It's like a police procedural story, but since he's technically off duty, he has to solve the mystery in a more "layman's" way, as well as pulling in some favors from other police officers and reporters.)

I liked the way the story ended, although the last chapters are very chilling since you're being exposed to someone who will do *anything* to start a new life. Miyabe's details make the mystery very realistic, and thus, even more scary.

Points against the book are that Miyabe, through different character monologues, really goes into explaining credit and borrowing, and why it's bad. These parts can be slow, and at times, repetitive. When another character started talking about how credit can really mess up your life, I felt it was the author's views slipping through more and more.

But overall, I thought the story was excellent and very well written. She handled the mystery, characters, and themes very well and consistently, and it was cool to see how things that affected Honma's family life would later affect the way he thought about the case. Also, I think because the story is a stand-alone, she took time to develop characters rather than dropping hints and pieces over a series of novels. The only bad thing with this is that I really liked reading about Honma, his family, and everyone else, so when I finished the story, I felt a little sad that there was not another book to follow it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FEAST OF DETECTIVE FICTION & A LOOK INTO CONTEMPORARY JAPAN, July 20, 2003
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
A young woman disappears when a routine credit check uncovers a bankruptcy in her past. The woman's fiance asks his uncle, disabled police detective Shunsuke Honma, to track her down. What he uncovers suggests the missing woman had been living under an assumed identity of another deceased woman.
What follows is an ingenious yet somewhat murky murder mystery about the search for a woman on the run; come to think of it, it is a search for two women, one running and one not.
I've read Japanese authors translated before (Murakami, for instance) but this was my first Japanese suspense novel. I'll be subtle and say that this is a fabulous and riveting thriller! And take it from someone in Tokyo: as a bonus, you also get a very accurate tour of contemporary Japan and the consumer culture that preys upon the individuals and society that created it.
One of the most compelling faces of detective fiction is the notion that the culprit leaves behind a trail of clues to his past, however hard he may have tried to erase that trail. That is the heart of this novel. The fact that in the past an individual in Japan was defined by his or her place in the family, and that now citizens have a residence certificate as proof of identity. That, coupled with the legal requirement that children are responsible for their parents' debts. One common way out is personal bankruptcy; our protagonist in the novel chooses to escape by assuming an entirely different inidividual's identity.
It is rather fitting then that the novel should be set in a society like modern day Japan's, where escaping an unhappy past may well be considered to be the ultimate crime.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All She Was Worth -- Priceless!, June 23, 2000
By 
James M. Cameron (Hallowell, ME USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
A fascinating glimpse into the modern Japanese consumer mentality, viewed in the context of a compelling murder mystery. A burned out Tokyo homicide detective, approaching retirement and recovering from a work-related injury, is asked by a distant relative to trace his missing girlfriend. The mysterious girlfriend, stunningly beautiful, does not appear to be what she seems at all. A well-crafted procedural mystery unfolds as Detective Homna (all off-duty and off-the-record) pieces together who she is and what she was worth. The novel asks the interesting question -- what is the basic value of the characters lives? Is the missing woman just a potential trophy wife (I wonder if there is a Japanese translation for that phrase!), a murderer, or some sort of commodity? Or is her value merely as an intellectual challenge for a stubborn detective? And what about the victim, if there is one? A scathing indictment of the modern Japanese consumer mentality, but a novel that leaves you with the satisfying conclusion that the true worth of a person lies in whether anyone cares if you live or die.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will not be able to put this book down!, May 22, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: All She Was Worth (Paperback)
Wow! This was an incredible read. If you are a Murakami fan, you will definitely love Miyabe. This book offers great insight into modern Japanese culture (or actually, modern society in general). The storyline is fast-paced and full of surprising twists and turns. You just can't wait to find out what happens next!
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All She Was Worth
All She Was Worth by Alfred Birnbaum (Paperback - May 12, 1999)
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