All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe

All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe Book Cover
A beautiful young woman vanishes, and a former detective quickly finds she was not whom she had claimed to be. Is she a victim, a killer, or both? In a country that tracks its citizens at every turn, how can two women claim the same identity and then disappear without a trace?
Genre: Contemporary
Available from: | Amazon UK | Amazon US

A slow-burn of a thriller that plays on the deception of identity to deceive its readers.

Jun approaches Honma, his uncle and former detective, to find his missing girlfriend, Shoko Sekine.

Honma is recently retired and lives with his young son Makota after his wife died three years earlier in a car accident. Since then, Honma has become a bit of a recluse.

Past traumas while working on old cases also leave their marks, this time in the form of a limp, making it difficult for Honma to stand for prolonged periods.

Account Opening

All She Was Worth follows Honma as he looks to track down the missing woman with the help of his neighbours, an old employee, and a friend.

As the story begins, the whole thing looks to be a missing person case, all we need to do is find a reason and/or a body. However, as the narrative moves on, it becomes evident that Shoko has been ‘played’ by two separate women.

A girl whose most remarkable characteristic was her lack of connections. A girl who could disappear without anybody trying hard to find her.
Miyuki Miyabe, All She Was Worth

The turning point is learning about the death of Shoko’s mother, a few years before her disappearance.

Equally strange occurrences begin to crop up as Honma meets her past employees, friends and roommates; each is showing the contrasting differences between the two Shoko’s.

Early on, I found myself questioning so many things about Shoko’s disappearance. One of which was the theory that she used her mother’s insurance money to change who she is; plastic surgery and such, but by a third of the way it’s clear that this isn’t the case.

I find myself going back and forth with this book. On the one hand, I did enjoy the small discoveries along the journey, Honma and his buddies piecing it together to bring in a larger narrative.

On the other, there are distinct parts of deception if you begin to look back over what you’ve previously read, with crucial information conveniently left out.

I understand this is a method to building suspense, but it’s not the only way.

I won’t spoil it, but an old polaroid photo is a mainstay here. Unlocking its details could be vital in discovering what really happened.

Paying Interest

There’s an over-arching theme that continually goes back to financial lending in Japan during the 90s’. Clearly, Miyabe is not on-board with the big banks lending out money to those who are likely unable to pay it back, pushing them further into debt by turning to loan sharks.

This is prominent, and at one point, Honma even discusses the possibility of Shoko being forced to work two jobs to pay any debts she has. However, even then, when you add in current rent and expenses, she’d still fall further and further into debt.

Debts such as these often cause substantial anxiety and mental strain on the individual, as well as the people around them, isolating them from loved ones while feeling the pressures of the bank on their shoulders. Add to that the constant threat of a loan shark turning up on your doorstep and disaster is set to strike sooner or later.

Closing Thoughts

Although All She Is Worth is an exciting book that throws you head-first into the mystery, I did feel a little hard-done-by the missing information when going back over my notes.

There are definite points when details have been left out to create mystery. However, that’s not to say the book doesn’t still work as a tense thriller, because it does.

The writing is concise, and the characters are developed; making you care much more for the ending and what really happened to Shoko Sekine.

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