英文版 凍える牙 - The Hunter (英語) ハードカバー – 2006/10/5
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In The Hunter, the first English translation of the atmospheric, gritty and character-driven work of prize-winning, bestselling Japanese writer Asa Nonami, American readers are introduced to Takako Otomichi, a strong, complex female detective reminiscent of Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski and Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone.
Takako is a former motorbike patrolwoman-turned-detective who is partnered with an older, seasoned, misogynist detective in a murder investigation. Their search reveals that the victim ran a dating club for men to meet high-school girls, and had previously been involved in the nightclub underworld of Roppongi. Before long, the case is linked to another death, this time apparently the result of an attack by a large dog. As Takako and Takizawa question experts in kennel clubs and police dog training centers, the dog strikes again. They soon realize that the animal responsible is actually half-dog, half-wolf. The trail leads to Kasahara, a former police dog handler; his deeply troubled daughter; and the shocking revelation that Kasahara had owned and trained a wolf-dog called Hayate to kill on command. But Hayate has escaped and is killing on his own. As Takako becomes increasingly fascinated with this highly intelligent, dangerous creature, she must use all her wits and insight to track down and stop Hayate before he strikes again.
The Hunter is sophisticated, challenging and evocative noir mystery fiction and is sure to have readers clamoring for more books in the Takako Otomichi series.
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Takako's perseverance makes her a sympathetic character, but she is also easy to like: she's smart, she's tenacious, and she has a biting sense of humor (although, for the most part, she keeps her sarcasm to herself). She thinks of her partner as "the emperor penguin." Her partner fits the stereotype of the career cop who has sacrificed his family to his job, who drinks too much and doesn't trust women. Although most of the story is presented from Takako's point of view, we sometimes see the novel's events through her male partner's eyes. The differing perspectives offer insight into the failure of the partners to communicate -- the two characters make assumptions about each other that, left unspoken, make it impossible for them to work as a team.
The subordinate role of women in Japanese society is a recurring theme in Japanese crime fiction (it appears in Out and The Cage among other novels); in The Hunter, Takako does her best to ignore the persistent sexism she encounters, even when it hobbles her investigation. She also tries to ignore her domineering mother and hapless sister, but doing so only adds to her stress. She feels best about herself when she's riding her motorcycle. Her connection to the mysterious animal she ends up tracking (as well as her love of riding) suggests her desire for freedom, a desire that is only a dream given the relentless demands of her job and family.
Readers looking for a strong female character should enjoy The Hunter. The novel isn't a whodunit -- there isn't much in the way of clues for the reader to piece together -- but the story moves quickly and in unexpected directions. The connection between the crimes is a bit farfetched, but that's common enough in thrillers. It's interesting to compare issues of gender equality across cultural lines, but it's even more interesting to read about Takako battling the kind of personal demons that afflict people in every culture. The prose in The Hunter flows more naturally than it does in some other novels translated from Japanese that I've read. For its intriguing central character and enjoyable story, I would give The Hunter 4 1/2 stars (if that option were available).
This book is written from a woman's perspective - to the extent that I would consider it feminist genre fiction. The author doesn't hit you over the head with the feminist angle - but seeing the Japanese police from the perspective of a female insider is an interesting twist on the usual murder mystery. The challenges that the female cope faces from everyone she encounters serves as a biting social critique of the status female professionals in Japanese society.