In Natsuo Kirino’s crime novel Out, published in Japan in 1997 and translated to English by Stephen Snyder in 2003, four women living on the margins of society are bound together and destroyed by a terrible secret. For Masako, Kuniko, Yoshie, and Yayoi, life is a perpetual struggle—they work the graveyard shift at a Japanese bento factory, where they’ve struck up a casual friendship of convenience, commiserating over their hard lives and issues with their husbands and children. Everything changes, however, after Yayoi kills her abusive husband and enlists the other women to help dispose of his body. Their secret is initially safe, especially after an ex-convict is arrested for the crime. But a careless misstep leads to a dark web of blackmail and revenge that in turn paves a path to their demise, highlighting a system inherently hostile to poor women. Kirino, a pen name used by Mariko Hashioka, won the 51st Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel and the English translation was nominated for the 2004 Edgar Award for Best Novel. A film adaptation was released in 2002. —Cady Lang

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