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Crossfire    by Miyuki Miyabe order for
by Miyuki Miyabe
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Crossfire (seamlessly translated by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi & Anna Husson Isozaki) is an engrossing psychological thriller, part police procedural, and part study of the implications of vigilante actions (on the perpetrators, the victims, and society as a whole), in a modern Japan in which powerful psychic abilities manifest.

Junko Aoki struggles with a talent she finds increasingly difficult to control. She has moved often in her life, always seeking locations with water nearby, needed to release her pyrokinesis, which grows ever more powerful. She takes undemanding jobs, and spends her free time seeking out murderers. Junko sees herself as a 'loaded gun' - 'My mission is to hunt down monsters who live only to consume and destroy innocent lives.' This time, Junko is not seeking villains, but simply to release her pent up power in an oily pool inside an abandoned warehouse. Teen killers show up with their latest victim, notice Junko, and a conflagration results, one that garners a great deal of media attention and the interest of the police.

Middle-aged arson detective Chikako Ishizu doesn't believe in paranormal phenomena but is very interested in this new case that mimics older ones in many respects, particularly in the fact that those burned were sport killers, who abducted girls, then forced them to participate in a 'death race' in which they were hunted and killed. Her investigation eventually partners Chikako with Detective Makihara, who's haunted by the death of his young stepbrother and believes in psychic talents, in particular in the ability 'to instantly produce temperatures high enough to melt steel.' While seeking out Junko's faint trail, they also look into the case of a schoolgirl, Kaori, in whose presence fires often and inexplicably start.

It's hard not to like Junko, even when she's doing horrific things and we see people die who are only peripherally involved in criminal acts - they are caught in the crossfire. The smoke thickens when the reader, Junko, and eventually Chikako, learn of the existence of mysterious Guardians, with extensive resources and high level connections in Japanese society. What is their interest in Junko, and what originally set her on this strange and lonely path? As she learns more, Junko continues to wonder whether she's gone too far, and how close she's become to the evil she so casually destroys? When she finally discovers the truth, she wins peace in a magnificent and suprising conclusion that deftly ties up all loose ends.

Crossfire is a brilliant story about a young woman trapped since childhood in a frightening and soul-destroying existence. Through Junko Aoki, and those around her, prizewinning author Miyuki Miyabe looks at the disturbing question of vigilante action from all sides, while delivering an engrossing and ultimately satisfying story. Don't miss it!

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