The story begins with four friends-- Masako the seemingly level-headed 'leader' of the group , Yoshie the long-suffering and self-sacrificing mother of two, Kuniko the vain who spends more money than she can ever afford in a lifetime (and the least sharpest of the group), and Yayoi the timid--- working the graveyard shift for a Bento-making factory.
Each of the women in the book has a story to tell. Their lives are trapped in hard circumstances and dreary daily routine alternating between work and home. Each one of them has a hopeless, dysfunctional relationship with either their husbands, their family, or themselves.
43-year-old Masako's cool demeanor and hardened heart hides her depressing relationship with her son who hasn't opened his mouth to speak since three years ago. Masako's husband, driven with his own work has simply ignored all other inhabitants in the household and sleeps apart from his estranged wife.
At 50, Yoshie is the pillar that holds her family together as she cares for her invaild yet manipulative mother-in-law and her teenage daughter who has recently developed some strange habits like dyeing her hair and aquiring items that she nor her mother could not afford. Yoshie is hard pressed to find money to make ends meet, and yet she could not afford to take on and shoulder another debt.
Kuniko is 29 years old and has long been drowning in debt with her excessive sprees, buying the latest replicas of designer bags, shoes, suits and other things. She lived with a good-for-nothing partner in her apartment, but after a while he leaves her taking all the savings that they made and since then has never been found. Kuniko is at a loss, sinking with all her mountain of bills and debts, with creditors at her heels. But that doesn't stop Kuniko as she lives from paycheck to paycheck to buy her a fashion item or two, and then budget her remaining money to buy food and pay her rent.
The lovely 34-year-old Yayoi completes the group. When she's done with graveyard work she becomes a full-time mother and homemaker often cutting her sleeping hours to a few measly hours to spend time her two sons. The situation with her husband, Kenji, worsens over the course of their marriage. He becomes a philanderer who gambles away money at an underground club, obsessed with a stunning hostess who has no interest in him except to take his money. The plot thickens as Yayoi breaks down and snaps when she finds out that he has emptied their life savings. That night, she murders Kenji with her own two hands.
The friends come together gradually as Yayoi asks for help on how to dispose the body and plan to cover up the entire thing to get the full amount of Kenji's insurance, costing up to millions. Lured by Yayoi's promise to split the money, Yoshie and Kuniko agree immediately while Masako has a strange reason only she understands. The story continues in a grisly, bloody manner as the women become deeply involved not only in one murdered body, but in several...
This book is just utterly, OUT THERE. It's dark, deep, and distressing. Not to mention that the book is not told by a cop or a detective trying to solve the mystery, but told by the murders themselves. I'm not one to like murder and mystery genre much but wow, this is the reason why the author, Natsuo Kirino holds the Naoki Prize in Japan's Top Mystery Award.