Title: IN THE MISO SOUP
Author: Ryu Murakami
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Thriller
‘It’s just before New Year, and Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s nightlife. But Frank’s behaviour is so odd that Kenji begins to entertain horrible suspicion: his client may in fact have murderous desires. Although Kenji is far from innocent himself, he unwilling descends with Frank into an inferno of evil, from which only his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Jun, can possibly save him.’
IN THE MISO SOUP was not what I wholly what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be a story littered with gruesome murders, described in great detail, a book that would get the adrenaline pumping. This was not the case. Granted there is one shockingly graphic and gruesome scene, that will remind, those who have read it, of Bret Easton Ellis’s, American Psycho. Other than that the book ignites fear in more subtle ways. The atmosphere is dark and the characters isolated; all carrying a sense of loneliness about them despite the fact their story takes place in Tokyo, a place we think of as being a bustling, neon laced city full of people. Perhaps this is the point. The book opens us up to a darker side of Japanese culture, one that is not readily advertised to us. The reader is taken down the backstreets of Tokyo, riding along with Kenji as he takes his new customer, Frank, on what he calls ‘sex tours’.
The claustrophobia of the book is intense. Every setting is intimate, in Kenji’s cab, in the clubs and bars, the characters are always close together. Ryu creates a tense atmosphere throughout as Kenji tried to figure out if Frank is dangerous and if he should be afraid. Unease and mistrust of Frank is established early on, there is never a moment for the reader to be at ease. This is what helps make the book so gripping. This constant state of unease forces you to keep reading. You’re desperate for a release, you need to have your suspicions confirmed. In this way the reader mirrors Kenji’s actions. He does not trust Frank and yet continues to interact with him, going against what his gut is tells him, he too needs his suspicions confirmed, he can’t just leave.
The book is 172 pages, a relatively short read, I finished it in one sitting. However, should it have been twice that length I likely still wouldn’t have put it down until I had turned the last page. IN THE MISO SOUP has you suspicious from the beginning and only answers some of your burning questions, leaving the others to quietly simmer long after you’ve put it down.