Paperback: Piercing, By Ryu Murakami, trs. Ralph McCarthy

Bloomsbury £7.99
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The Independent Culture

It is late at night, and while his wife is asleep in their Tokyo apartment, Kawashima Masayuki is gazing down at his baby daughter in her crib. It is not as sweet a domestic scene as it sounds, though, for he is clutching an ice pick. The tip of it quivers. A bead of his sweat drops on to the baby's blanket. And there is a scary voice in his head telling him that he can't be sure he won't use the ice pick, like that one time a few years ago... telling him that the only way to be sure that he won't stab his own baby is to go out and stab someone else.

Murakami's novel is a claustrophobic and feverish pyschosexual pulp drama which takes place largely in the head of a damaged individual while he methodically plans the murder of a stranger. But he doesn't plan for the eventuality of his intended victim, a young prostitute specialising in S&M, turning out to be every bit as damaged and crazy as he is. Their encounter makes for an intense and unsavoury novel, of the sort that you don't want to read but can't bear to stop.