Ryū Murakami’s 1994 novel gives us a young man obsessed with the idea of stabbing his infant daughter—revenge for his own mistreatment at the hands of his disturbed mother. Despite being happily married and gainfully employed, his urges are overwhelming him, and he hatches a plan to stab a suitable victim that has no connection to him. He settles on a girl sent over from an S&M call service who turns out to be at least as disturbed as he is and has a self-destructive streak that might well perfectly complement his own impulses.
Their encounter, over the course of one long, blood-spattered night, sports Murakami’s trademark precision of description and sensory immersion: for such a short book (barely 180 pages, large type) it’s remarkably good at evoking the narrow scopes of the inner lives of these two human wrecks. In the end the novel works best as a straight-up thriller rather than a penetrating psychological study: most of the insights we get into their conditions are Abnormal Psych 102. That said, Murakami makes a brave attempt to see this abnormality from inside, the opposite of his outsider-sees-outsider approach used in In the Miso Soup. And as per the thriller veneer of the story, there’s a genuine and skillfully-evoked sense of unease about how this will end which lasts right up to the very last sentence.