cover image The Kingdom

The Kingdom

Fuminori Nakamura, trans. from the Japanese by Kalau Almony. Soho Crime, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61695-592-2

Femme fatale Yurika, the emotionally detached narrator of Nakamura’s second noir set in Tokyo’s criminal underworld (after 2012’s The Thief), makes a living by seducing powerful men into compromising photographs. Used to a position of control, Yurika is confused by the vulnerability provoked by an encounter with a gentle, long-lost friend from the orphanage she grew up in, a meeting that unexpectedly pulls her into the orbit of Kizaki, an omnipotent, demonic underworld boss, whose meticulously devised (yet randomly triggered) cruelty emerges not from self-interest but from an infatuation with chaos and human fear. The novel’s straining toward philosophical meaning sometimes weighs down the plot, but the tense, brutal style and shocking images enmesh an uneasy reader in the dark mechanics of the shadow systems underwriting society. Yurika, deliberately unlikable, yet determined to survive, makes an ideal guide into Nakamura’s nightmare kingdom, one node in a nihilistic entanglement of lives forged outside of conventional legal and moral frameworks. [em](July) [/em]