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All She Was Worth Hardcover – February, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Recovering from a leg injury, a 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector named Shunsuke Honma realizes how out of touch he has become when a relative asks him to make some private inquiries into the disappearance of his fiancée. While he wasn't paying attention, it seems that everyone in the country but Honma has been caught up in a consumer feeding frenzy--going into heavy debt and declaring bankruptcy at a snowballing rate. This engrossing story of the search for happiness through shopping marks the first appearance in English of one of Japan's leading writers.

From Publishers Weekly

The horror in this beautifully fashioned tale of stolen identity lies not in the cold-blooded crimes but in the motive?a desperate hunger for consumer goods. Shunsuke Honma, a widowed 43-year-old Tokyo police inspector with a 10-year-old son, is on disability leave. The boring cycle of idleness punctuated by painful physical therapy sessions comes to a halt when a nephew asks for Honma's help in finding his missing fiancee, whom he knows as Shoko Sekine. As Honma's search intensifies, he realizes the fiancee had actually assumed Sekine's identity and possibly killed her. For the American reader, the jewel in this enormously compelling novel is the portrait of working- and middle-class Japanese getting caught in a cycle of astronomical personal debt in order to enjoy the good life. Also eye-opening is Japan's elaborate registry system for keeping track of its citizenry. In order to become Shoko Sekine, the impostor had to perpetrate an ingeniously elaborate series of hoaxes and lies. Honma is tenacious, methodical, an attentive listener with a retentive memory and the ability to connect disparate bits of information. The trail takes him back through the real Sekine's history and into the life of the other woman, whose family ran afoul of vicious loan sharks. Miyabe drives her complex plot with spare prose, combining expert pacing and psychological nuance to ultimately haunting effect. (Feb.) FYI: All She Was worth was named Best Novel of the year and Best Mystery for 1992 in Japan.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc; First American Edition Second Printing edition (February 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 477001922X
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770019226
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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By A Customer on March 10, 2000
Format: 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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Format: 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.
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