An intriguing premise but not enough life in Perry's `Nightlife'

Crime Fiction

March 26, 2006|By SARAH WEINMAN | SARAH WEINMAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Nightlife

Thomas Perry

Crossfire

Miyuki Miyabe

Vertical / 300 pages / $25

One of the most exciting developments in crime fiction is the increasing availability of Japanese authors (such as the Edgar-nominated Natsuo Kirino and best-seller Koji Suzuki) to our borders. But the best export might well be Miyuki Miyabe, who serves up a stunner of a book in Crossfire.

Superficially, there's some resemblance to Stephen King's Firestarter (the main protagonist, Junko Aoki, has the power to start fires using her mind), but Miyabe explores different and deeper directions about the nature of vigilante justice, how rational people cope with a paranormal world, and - most heartbreakingly - how innocents can get caught up in events beyond their control. Only in her mid-20s, Junko has used her powers to execute those who have evaded prosecution for horrible crimes for years. But when one of her targets gets away, she sets out to find him - as others are looking for her. Chief among them are a secret group who want to exploit her abilities, and police detective Chikako Ishizu, who can't quite believe that her investigations are veering off logical course.

Surprises abound, the action never stops, and the characters are memorable, but Crossfire rises to the top of the genre for its insights into the growing decay of Japanese society.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction monthly for The Sun. Visit her at www.sarahweinman.com.

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