Natsuo Kirino

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Natsuo Kirino was born Mariko Hashioka on October 7, 1951, in Kanazawa, capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. She began her life in one of the few Japanese cities that was not firebombed in World War II and thus contained a treasure of traditional architecture. Her father, a peripatetic architect, soon moved the family to Sendai and Sapporo, before relocating to Tokyo when Kirino was fourteen years old. Kirino attracted attention as an imaginative teenager who loved to read.

After obtaining her law degree in 1974 from Seikei University in Tokyo, Kirino found no appropriate employment and worked as an organizer of film festivals and as a magazine editor and writer. Later, she would say that during this period she had a rough time and no good job at all. In 1975, she married, and in 1981, her daughter was born. For a while she tried her luck as a scenario writer for films before writing her first romance in 1984.

Kirino turned to mystery writing and was influenced by Japanese writers Yukio Mishima, Fumiko Hayashi, and Ryu Murakami, as well as by Western writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Anne Tyler, Stephen King, and Patricia Highsmith. Her breakthrough came in 1993, when she was writing under the pseudonym Natsuo Kirino. Her mystery Kao ni furikakaru ame (1993; the rain that falls on the face) won the prestigious Edogawa Rampo Award in 1993 and launched her career as a major crime writer in Japan. Her protagonist, female private detective Miro Murano, made one more appearance in Tenshi ni misuterareta yoru (1994; the night abandoned by angels) before Kirino turned away from serial fiction.

Kirino’s next success was Out, which saw an initial printing run of five hundred thousand copies in Japan and won her the 1998 Mystery Writers of Japan Award. Translated into English and other foreign languages, the novel established Kirino’s international fame as an original mystery writer. Her fiction focuses on the social forces driving contemporary women over the edge into committing crimes of astonishing ferocity.

Kirino’s novel Yawarakana hoho (1999; soft cheeks) won the important Naoki Prize awarded annually since 1935 to the best young author of popular fiction. Her Grotesque

(The entire section is 527 words.)