Kirino, Natsuo 1951-

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Kirino, Natsuo 1951-


Born October 7, 1951, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan; daughter of an architect father; married, 1975; children: one daughter. Education: Law degree.


Home—Tokyo, Japan.


Author. Has also worked as a movie theater film scheduler and as a magazine editor and writer.


Edogawa Ranpo Award, 1993, for Kao ni furikakaru ame; Mystery Writers of Japan Award, 1998, and Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best novel, Mystery Writers of America, 2004, both for Out; Naoki Award, 1999, for Soft Cheeks; Isumi Kyoka Literary Award, 2004, for Grotesque; Shibata Renzaburo Award, 2005, for Zangyakuki; Fujinkoron Literary Award, for Tamamoe!


Kao ni furikakaru ame (title means "Rain Falling on My Face"), Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan), 1993.

Zangyakuki, c. 1995.

Out (novel), translated by Stephen Snyder, Kodansha International (New York, NY), 2003.

Gurotesuku, Bungei Shunju (Japan), 2003, translated by Rebecca Copeland as Grotesque, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Rod Slemmons) Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan (essays), photographs by Misty Keasler, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Also author of Soft Cheeks, Tenshi ni misuterareta yoru, Yawaraka na hou, and Tamamoe!


Several of the author's novels or stories have been adapted for film, including Tenshi ni misuterareta yoru, 1999; Yawaraka na hou, 2001; Out, 2002; and Tamamoe!, 2007.


Although Natsuo Kirino did not begin to write seriously until she was in her forties, the short-story writer and novelist went on to develop a reputation in Japan as an author of unconventional crime stories that not only present a mystery but also offer a critique of Japanese society. Out, which won a major Japanese fiction award, was the first novel by Kirino to appear in English. The mystery-thriller revolves around four women who work the night shift at a factory and who decide to help one of the women cover up the strangulation of her husband. Led by the middle-aged Masako Katori, the women soon find themselves involved a tense game of deceit with the police. "The novel tackles disturbing themes: the subjugation of women, domestic abuse and a woman's murder of her husband," reported Hideko Takayama in Newsweek International.

While it took six years for Out to get published in English, critics followed their Japanese counterparts in appreciating the author. "Skillfully crafted, the novel reveals the frustrations and pressures that drive these women to … extreme measures," stated Ron Samul in Library Journal. Referring to Out as having "the force of a juicy tabloid scandal," New York Times Book Review contributor Katherine Wolff went on to write that the author "depicts a bleak subculture where women routinely endure taxing physical labor." Joe Hartlaub, writing on, commented: "Kirino, as is the case with the best of mystery writers, combines a strong plot with a canny description of contemporary Japanese mores and culture to make this an unforgettable work."

In her thriller Grotesque, Kirino tells the story of a complex case dubbed by the Japanese police and press as the Apartment Serial Murders. After two prostitutes are murdered, Chinese immigrant Zhang Zhe-zhong is arrested and admits to the first killing but denies that he committed the identical second murder. The story of the murders and arrest is told from a variety of perspectives by characters such as Zhang's jealous sister. "This mesmerizing tale of betrayal reveals some sobering truths about Japan's social hierarchy," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. An America's Intelligence Wire contributor noted: "Kirino's book must be read with caution. Its dark twists easily consume the minds of its readers." Several reviewers also observed that the author once again is presenting a commentary on Japanese society as much as a gripping thriller. For example, a Canberra Times writer remarked on how the author's presentation of various views of the murdered womens' lives, as well as that of Zhang's sister, results in a comprehensive sociological view of the women. The reviewer explained: "This gradual, merciless exposure has the dual effect of creating emotional involvement with the characters while placing them in the greater context of Japanese society, so that the narrative becomes something other than the mere dismantling of motives behind a crime." Leigh Anne Vrabel, writing in the Library Journal, believed that "readers who enjoy psychological horror tales might well relish … Kirino's critique of contemporary Japan."



America's Intelligence Wire, March 23, 2007, review of Grotesque.

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, July 6, 2003, review of Out; July 17, 2004, "Kirino Rejects Mystery Writer Label."

Booklist, July 1, 2003, Carrie Bissey, review of Out, p. 1870.

Canberra Times (Canberra, Australia), March 3, 2007, review of Grotesque.

Entertainment Weekly, Lori L. Tharps, August 22, 2003, review of Out, p. 135.

Guardian (London, England), November 27, 2004, Stephen Poole, review of Out.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of Out, p. 836.

Library Journal, June 15, 2003, Ron Samul, review of Out, p. 101; March 1, 2007, Leigh Anne Vrabel, review of Grotesque, p. 74.

M2 Best Books, November 18, 2003, "Natsuo Kirino's Feminist Crime Thriller Translated into English."

Newsweek International, August 18, 2003, Hideko Vrabel, review of Out, p. 50.

New York Times, November 17, 2003, Howard W. French, review of Out, p. E1.

New York Times Book Review, Katherine Wolff, August 17, 2003, review of Out, p. 16.

Observer (London, England), November 14, 2004, Peter Guttridge, review of Out.

Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003, review of Out, p. 52; January 22, 2007, review of Grotesque, p. 157.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 2003, Eve Kushner, review of Out.

Village Voice, September 17, 2003, Greg Tate, review of Out.

ONLINE, (April 19, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, review of Out.

Natsuo Kirino Home Page, (April 19, 2007).

USA Today Online, (August 18, 2003), Carol Memmott, review of Out.