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A harrowing tale of murder and retribution.

Young, pretty Junko Aoki has an extraordinary ability-she can start fires through sheer force of will. When she begins using her gift of pyrokinesis to take the law into her own hands and punish violent criminals, her executions attract the attention of two very different groups: the Guardians, a secretive vigilante organization that tries to recruit her, and the arson squad of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Soon the police are on Junko's trail, most notably Detective Chikako Ishizu, a rationalist who must come to terms with the existence of paranormal forces. As Junko's crusade against evil escalates and she finds it harder to control her power, we are taken on a breathtaking and brutal journey through the urban landscape of Tokyo on a journey that challenges us, along with Chikako, to think about what's right and what's wrong in the name of justice.

Atmospheric, suspenseful, provocative, and even romantic, Crossfire is a tour de force sure to secure Miyuki Miyabe's place in the pantheon of today's top mystery writers.

404 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1998

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About the author

Miyuki Miyabe

289 books490 followers
See also 宮部みゆき (Japanese language profile) and 宮部美幸 (Chinese language profile).

Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき Miyabe Miyuki) is a popular contemporary Japanese author active in a number of genres including science fiction, mystery fiction, historical fiction, social commentary, and juvenile fiction.
Miyabe started writing novels at the age of 23. She has been a prolific writer, publishing dozens of novels and winning many major literary prizes, including the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize in 1993 for Kasha and the Naoki Prize in 1998 for Riyū [The Reason] (理由). A Japanese film adaptation of Riyû, directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, was released in 2004.

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5 stars
114 (19%)
4 stars
205 (34%)
3 stars
216 (36%)
2 stars
56 (9%)
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9 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews
Profile Image for Mariana.
391 reviews1,676 followers
August 31, 2022
Miyuki Miyabe es una de las escritoras de thriller más famosas de Japón: sus historias están muy bien escritas y sus personajes excelentemente desarrollados. En Crossfire, Miyabe nos presenta, por un lado, a Junko una chica con poderes de pirokinesis que va por la vida cobrando justicia y, por el otro, a la detective Chikako, una mujer de mediana edad que trabaja en la brigada de incendios de la policía y que está acostumbrada a ser ninguneada por ser mujer. La historia aborda temas muy interesantes como el sistema de justicia en Japón, la desigualdad entre hombres y mujeres e incluso la pérdida de valores "tradicionales". El problema que tuve con el libro fue que la trama decae bastante en la segunda mitad, algunas interacciones se sienten tediosas y los personajes secundarios más bien sobran, lo que resulta en un desenlace que me pareció más bien flojo. De todos modos fue una lectura que disfruté, solo no vivió a la altura de mis expectativas.
Profile Image for Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly.
755 reviews331 followers
May 24, 2020
This is something I could have easily disliked. First, because crime/mystery novels are not really my cup of tea. If sometimes i get the urge to read crime or mystery, I’d go for something factual or historical. Not fiction (not one Sherlock Holmes have I read!). Secondly, the book’s cover layout is the type that would usually repel me when rummaging through bargain books in my favourite bookstores. It screams cheap, like a newspaper pretending to be a book. But I bought it. Way back 30 October 2011 (I used to have the habit of putting my name and the precise date of purchase whenever I buy a new book). So why did I buy it? Because it is one among those listed in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list which I was then trying to complete reading. And it was precisely because I do not like the genre it belongs to that it took me almost nine years and a pandemic to finally pick it up and read it.

I started reading it the evening of 22 May 2020 before I slept; continued reading it the evening of yesterday again before I retired to bed; and finished it this morning (24 May 2020) because I couldn’t wait for the evening anymore to find out what would happen to the young, pretty Junko Aoki and the rest of the characters.

The setting is in modern day Tokyo (they have cellphones and internet already) with some X-men type of protagonists (including Junko Aoki who can hit you with fire that can break your neck, melt metals and turn you into a pile of ash in minutes), young, psychopathic criminals and their equally-young victims, the haunted past, loneliness, love, betrayal, surprising twists and turns in the plot and a completely unexpected ending. The characters are also well-developed and completely agree with the Los Angeles Times review which described the lady author (a multi-awarded writer who is also a lawyer) as “a master of small gestures, the precise geometry of meaning as it moves between people.”

Translated from the Japanese by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi and Anna Husson Isozoki.

Bravo ladies!
Profile Image for Rage.
999 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2015
Although "Crossfire" is about pyrokinesis, it also touches on aimless youth, the criminal justice system, class distinctions, and obstacles women face in traditionally male-dominated fields. Chikako and Junko are both sympathetic in their own ways - Junko seems cold in the beginning, but the more chances she has to open up to people, the more compassion she starts to feel, and the more she questions her own actions. Meanwhile, Chikako is methodical and content with her quiet life, but unable to let go of the mysterious arson/murder cases. There are a lot of other characters who come in and out of the story, all of whom bring their own little histories and problems. About two-thirds through, I started to wonder what was up with the romantic subplot and how Miyabe could possibly resolve the story in a satisfactory way, but I was pleased with the end.
Profile Image for Hubert.
681 reviews39 followers
September 5, 2020
I'm rather impressed with my first encounter with the writings of Miyabe Miyuki, a prominent Japanese mystery / crime novelist. Miyabe's writing is very precise, elucidating; she transports the reader into a noir world, at once realist and supernatural. Junko acts as a Batman-type character who possesses the ability to set anything (including people) on fire. Her acts of vigilante justice elude detective Chikako, who works to solve these most intriguing murders of mobsters - scenes of burned bodies but missing accelerant, for example.

Miyuki's narration is set up so that the reader actually roots for the vigilante Junko. She and others feel that that the police department metes out justice much too lightly, and that gangsters get off with much too light sentences. Later in the book it turns out that

Meanwhile, Chikako, while trying to solve the case, gets a first-hand glimpse at how cultural mores and departmental politics affects her ability to work through a case. This is revealed especially when she investigates allegations of a young girl who has much of the same fire-creating abilities as Junko has.

A really engaging story that incorporates mystery, the supernatural, and the detective genre, while critiquing the foibles of the over(t)ly regimented, hierarchical Japanese society.
Profile Image for Nan.
73 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2009
This book was on the 1001 books list (yeah, I know, it's pathetic what a list whore I am). I'm not really sure why; it's basically Firestarter set in Tokyo.

Genre fiction really ain't my thing, primarily because it tends towards lines like, "She mused to herself" and lots of "with an [amused/aggravated/offended/etc. tone in her voice." This is no different, and though I wanted to blame the translation, after a while I couldn't. This should be a 2.5 rating, but you can't do that, and 2 stars doesn't justify me finishing the damn thing, which I did.

It would make a great graphic novel or movie (apparently it's been made into one in Japan), provided you're not after logic but just fairly intricate action that's thoroughly implausible if you stop to think about it. On screen, this thing could move fast enough that you'd just get sucked in. Off screen, not so much.

While it's fascinating to read contemporary Japanese genre fiction to get a glimpse of the state of pop culture, there were a fair amount of plot lines and characters to keep straight, which made the cultural commentary take a very distant back seat (we're talking stretch limo) to the very apparent plot creakings and groanings.

I might, however, check out the author again, if only because there's a definite mournful quality that underlies the whole story. It's a 2D book with a 3D soul, kind of like when an actor delivers a performance that's way too good for the movie s/he's in.
Profile Image for Mike.
26 reviews4 followers
May 30, 2017
I picked up this book at random for a light yet entertaining read. Unfortunately for an action / thriller I didn't feel like it was very exciting or entertaining, so not worth picking up. I also had a few other problems with this book…


Besides feeling like this novel wasn't really entertaining, my main problem is with one of the central mysteries / twists in the novel. First of all it wasn't much of a surprise that the ex-cop working for the vigilante group (sorry already forgot his name) was the one who shot and killed the girl in the first part of the novel (he was the only character introduced that possible could have); what makes it worse is that it makes absolutely no sense. He joined the group to protect people after his daughter is murdered so he is going to make it right by murdering someone else’s daughter just because she saw him on the roof? Seriously makes no sense. And did he really get off at the end with no punishment?

Also I felt like the chapters from the police officer’s point of view were mostly a complete waste. If you think about it, they didn’t really add anything to the actual story at all besides a bit at the end. Everything with Junko would have still played out the exact same. I hate when books do that.

Also Junko’s power doesn’t make much sense with the “energy whip” killing everyone before the fire even touches them. What’s the point of the fire?

Anyway, just a silly, not very entertaining book in my opinion.
Profile Image for Diane.
347 reviews73 followers
May 18, 2015
Excellent thriller/science fiction novel by Miyuki Miyabe. Junko Aoki has the gift of pyrokinesis - the power to start fires. Think Firestarter and you'll get the idea. Junko has had this ability since childhood, but has managed to keep it a secret. However, things are about to change. Periodically, Junko has to "release" her power, which builds up over time. She also becomes a vigilante, using her horrifying powers to against criminals. In the process, though, Junko becomes a criminal herself, brutally murdering close to a dozen people.

Junko's counterpart is the police detective Chikako Ishizu, who begins to sense a connection between the arson deaths. Chikako calls herself a "handy middle-aged lady" - which is a serious understatement. She is smart, tough, determined, and resourceful.

Miyabe has crafted a fascinating story that draws you in. I came to care for Junko, even though she does all those awful things. She really believes she is doing the right thing, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

That's a lesson that Junko learns the hard way.

Profile Image for Nicolás Ilari.
2 reviews5 followers
April 20, 2020
I have been reading several books by women writers lately, I honestly do not care if the writer is a man or a woman, it is just that every time I read a female author I noticed the same thing, no one was really interested in the plot of the story, no They were interested in whether it was interesting or not, they just wanted to demonstrate "everything a woman has to live in an oppressed society" which becomes a bit childish after a while, so I wanted to prove a point ... anyway, this The book is not so different from that, although at least it is entertaining, and the person of Junco is someone that both men and women can relate to. It is a live situation that many can suffer (except for pyrokinesis, of course). What I'm trying to say is that it's good that some female writers write something that may interest the male audience as well from time to time.
Profile Image for Lokidm.
187 reviews2 followers
October 8, 2015

La idea es original y los personajes son creíbles y carismáticos. Al unir los poderes psíquicos con una novela policíaca tenía mis dudas (aunque es una autora que me gusta mucho), pero en ningún momento me resultó poco creible.

Hay un par de episodios que ni están a la altura (parece relleno) y el final (aunque bueno y muy bien llevado) es un poco precipitado.

De los tres de la tetralogia de Tokio que he leído es el que más me ha gustado.
Profile Image for Kingfan30.
892 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2020
This is a new author to me, picked up as its on the 1001 list. It was an entertaining read with some interesting storylines to give you something to think about, the main one being that if you had this power how would you use it and are you the right person to make these decisions. It moved along fairly quickly although I felt the middle lost its way slightly, but it was just the right thing to be reading while the world feels little mad.
Profile Image for Cornell .
24 reviews
January 1, 2022
Uña thriller a la japonesa con un personaje con poderes ígneos que va haciendo de justiciera. La historia se lee rápida, es original, pero peca mucho del estilo manga. Otro pequeño defecto es que los personajes son muy planos, poco desarrollados y no llegas a enganchar con ellos, a empatizar con los sentimientos de la protagonista ni los de la policía que la persigue por todo el libro, a pesar de que sus historias son trágicas y bien desarrolladas darían más de sí.
6 reviews
August 18, 2022
It took me some time for me to get through it... But I don't regret picking it up again after a gap and finishing...

The plot had minor twists, nothing which was that mind-blowing also there was not the concept of a single main character but was mix matched with a few people...

Even though it lacked climax comparatively, the book was still a good read and signified connections... It made me feel something... Which is always a happy take away for me.

12 reviews
May 24, 2022
I read this book because I was very much interested in reading a book similar to Stephen Kings Firestarter. Its a great thriller and I love that its set in Japan. Its super well done and the book draws you in immediately. It can be a little slow at times but I finished the book pretty fast and was satisfied with the ending.

Profile Image for Voro.
260 reviews2 followers
June 9, 2021
Ingredientes: novela negra policiaca, cómic de los x-men versión nipona, y una prosa ágil y bien estructurada que recuerda una pizca a los mejores mangas, cocinado a fuego cruzado intenso nos da una sabrosa historia cuya textura no decepciona un ápice.
7 reviews
February 2, 2023
This thriller would make a great film...There is an older film with subtitles that was done crudely by today's standards. A remake is in order!
Profile Image for Sensitivemuse.
520 reviews31 followers
October 30, 2009
This book was all right. I liked how they showed both sides of the story and both point of views. It was a nice even exchange between chapters and it went smooth for the most part. I have to admit though, although the beginning of the book really got me it just started to fall short and falls flat midway and I found myself wondering what's going to happen next and how soon because to be honest, I was starting to get a little bored of the book. Not to mention besides the main characters, there were so many other secondary characters mentioned I was left wondering who this person was again and I had to either read back a few pages or commit to memory who they were. It got a little frustrating as they appeared for one chapter and wouldn't come back until much much later. However, I found myself a little more intrigued bit by bit on how all these characters had to be connected somehow to each other and I was left guessing until the last moment. It was actually pretty well done despite these little flaws.

I really did try to like Chikako but just couldn't do it. I was really trying to warm up to her but she was just flat. It just sort of seemed although she put the pieces together and helped solved the crime she really was just there for the ride. There wasn't much personality to her I thought. Unlike Junko. I think she was the main focus in the book hence why she seemed to be the only real character in the book that developed well throughout the book. Junko went from someone who was angry and out for justice to someone who finally found closure and absolute closure.

The plot moved fairly smoothly although there were a bit of bumps and blips here with background information which was useful in some parts but in some other areas of the book it wasn't really necessary. Then sometimes I felt the plot was just going in circles and very redundant. It was really starting to get old. At that point, I wished the plot would have moved more quickly instead of lingering and remaining stagnant. It also felt as if these moments were needed as a space filler. It nearly took the heart and the momentum of the plot because of these bumps.

Overall, it wasn't so bad but it wasn't so great either. It could have been better but the climactic ending did make up for it and as the story came to a close, it had a nice sense of completion. Would I recommend this? Well, that depends. Stick with Junko. She's the more exciting arc in the plot than Chikako. Try and read through the unnecessary stuff but the underlying layers of the plot actually also make up for its shortfalls.
Profile Image for Ursula.
276 reviews35 followers
September 5, 2014
Crossfire is a Japanese novel that I read because it is on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. I was a bit skeptical about why it would be on the list, since it looked like just a run-of-the-mill mystery novel. Usually the mysteries that make it onto the list, though, are there because they provide a certain kind of insight into a culture or a time period, so I had that in mind while I read.

Junko is our main character, and we find out early on that she has a supernatural power: pyrokinesis. Once that fact is established, the novel concerns itself with the role or responsibilities of a person with powers like that, Junko's self-image as a result of her power, and the experience of being "other" in society. It also covers the major bases of a suspense novel. The Tokyo of this book isn't really the one I tend to visualize, full of modern skyscrapers, clean but crowded streets, bright neon signs. The parts of Tokyo Miyabe presents us with are remote, sparsely inhabited at night, decidedly middle-to-lower class.

I think that this view of Tokyo is part of the reason the book is on the list. Other than providing a look at the underside of Japan's public face, I'm not sure what new ground is really covered here. The writing is serviceable, but not striking (though I'm reading in translation, of course). The emotional part of the story doesn't have many twists and turns, and the mysteries that are not revealed to the reader right away comprise a pretty small piece of the overall puzzle. It was a decent read, but not a page-turner.

Recommended for: believers in vigilante justice, people interested in seeing another view of Japanese society

Quote: They were all raised to think of themselves as special, as better than others, and they needed to find something to prove it to themselves, to justify their sense of entitlement. But what if they never found that "something"? All they were left with was their enormous conceit. They were like flower bulbs raised in water, floating in a transparent, colorless pool of nihilism. Surrounding the bulb was nothing - nothing that could give them a true sense of themselves.
Profile Image for Kazuko Kato.
41 reviews
June 25, 2010
After watching the movie version of the book I have decided that...
The characterization of Aoki Junko in the book was much better than the one in the movie. In the movie she seemed to be totally different from the character in the book which is a shame because in the movie many of the unique traits of her personality were lost. Never mind the fact that I thought the movie was terrible and that the portrayal of Junko was poor. I can say that I can sympathize with Junko (in the book) in many ways that I cannot with the movie version. In the book we learn more about Junko than in the movie as we learn that she is strong, brave and persistent and I think most of these is lost in the movie. In addition, it is easy to see Junko struggling in the book--the battles that she fights with herself as a result of her “power”, the loneliness that she experiences and the desire to be more of a human and less of a loaded gun. In the movie the degree to which she experiences these is lower and as a result the impact they have on her life cannot be fully appreciated. For instance, when Aoki meets Koichi in the book she falls in love with him and since I understand how lonely she had been and how desperately she had wanted someone to be a part of her life it comes as no surprise that she fell for him. Moreover, when Koichi betrayed Aoki it had a greater impact on me than it did in the movie because in the book I got to know the characters better and the significance of such events is greater as a result.
In the book I see a Aoki who is clearly struggling and who has had a difficult life. In the movie all of these is lost and she’s just a girl who is capable of pyrokinesis. I find that the Aoki in the movie has no depth and history and there is nothing that truly explains her as a character the way the book does and for this reason I think that Aoki is a much more believable character in the book. I can easily sympathize with her in book because I have a better understanding of who she is.
Profile Image for Robert.
1,978 reviews190 followers
June 21, 2016
Before reading Crossfire, I had a dim view on mysteries. I was forced to read them as a children and that made em dislike the genre. Now that I'm in my mid thirties, this is a rather silly reason to not to read mysteries.

Personally I think a sign of a great book is one that manages to change people’s ideas about a certain genre and thankfully Crossfire does this. Not only do have I changed my view on mystery books (In fact one of the best books I read in this challenge was a whodunnit – In Search of Klingsor). but my perception of horror has changed.

Junk Aoki has the power to set things on fire. One night while practising in a factory she comes across a group of teenagers, who try to kill a half dead man. Junko ends up burning all but one of the gang and she finds out that the man has a girlfriend kept hostage. Junko then aims to find the girlfriend and ‘punish’ the gang in the process. This not the first time she has killed in order for good to reign.

In the meantime Police Dectective Chikako discovers the burnt gang and remembers the other burnings. Thus she sets up an investigation, which results in her chasing Junko and discovering more about the supernatural world she lives in.

To add another twist in the novel Junko comes across an organisation called the guardians.- A group of vigilantes who also kill for the good of mankind. She does become embroiled with them and it leads to a spectacular conclusion.

The clever thing about the novel is that we readers already know the aims of both Junko and Chikako and yet the fact we don’t know how the events turn out makes Crossfire an engrossing read. Although well structured Miyabe chucks in a lot of plot twists which change your impression of both characters and by the end of the novel the idea of good and evil are totally confused.

Maybe this review is a bit on the scant side but to go into more detail will simply ruin the book. All I can say is that if you are wary do check this out – you’ll be surprised!
Profile Image for Asma.
Author 2 books93 followers
April 15, 2011
Ever since she was a child, Junko knew she had the power to start fires at will. Now as an adult, she has to take the utmost precaution not to accidentally incinerate her surroundings. But by chance, she happens upon a violent kidnapping, and Junko unleashes a trail of burned bodies in the wake of her mission: save a victim, and cleanse the world of evil. Her actions spark the interest of a secret vigilante group, and the Metropolitan Police, who are puzzled over the murders, but as detective Ishizu Chikako investigates, she realizes what's happening around them is beyond the control of the police department.

I always have mixed reactions when I read Japanese literature. It can range from being too dry to being very well written, and then the stories are not the formula I'm used to. But I have to say that Miyabe's book was the second I've enjoyed in terms of plot and characters, despite my mixed feelings about it. The book is micro-descriptive. There are A LOT of small details, and it did feel like it bogged down the pace. I don't know how many of it was the writer and how many of it was the translator (I noticed there are some explanations sort of tacked in, I'm guessing that's for the international readers' sake).

The good things about detailed writings though is that it builds up towards the climax. The first half of this book was the build up, the second half had the ball rolling. There was more character engagement, and I loved that. In fact, this is the first time I've come across such normal character emotions in Japanese literature. As for the conclusion, well, I definitely didn't see it coming.

The only problem I had is the pacing. It didn't get fast or urgent towards the end. It was gripping, but.. I don't know. Maybe I'm influenced by Western thrillers. Still, this was a great read.
Profile Image for Geoff.
59 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2022
I recently read Firestarter by Stephen King. It was alright, but I thought that the story could've gone in a completely different direction and been more satisfying. The protag of this book having the same powers and all, I figured I would give this one a read and compare the two (at least privately to myself. Honestly, I'd be shocked if it hadn't been, the book even mentions King by name.. and she makes the title of that book her computer password. There are a lot of very similar aspects, and some of the characters even have the same peculiar habits from that book, but the plot is almost completely different.)

(Original review on 02/23/22, additional reflection below on 5/27/22)

It's an alright story. The main character randomly becomes pathetic for no reason and it's very irritating. The author is very preachy about how she thinks young people behave and think, much to the reader's detriment. Erm, unless you're over 40 and like shaking your fists at young people for not getting their ass beat by their parents enough to satisfy you. I suppose if you fit into that demographic, the characters actions wouldn't be constantly annoying and illogical. Additionally, and ironically, this book manages to be sexist when it tries to be feminist. The plot is overly convenient and at times absurd in a way that isn't enjoyable. The ending left me feeling I was in the middle of a poorly done metaphor for the author's straw man of today's (1998's, when I believe the author was 38?) youth.
Profile Image for Colin.
25 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2014
I quite enjoyed this, not just for the story but for the strength of the characters' depictions. There was a nice variety of interesting and intriguing characters who weren't all necessarily likable. I also really enjoyed the diversity of female characters in Crossfire, as well as the respectful treatment of them as a whole. They were depicted in a variety of different ways and coming from a variety of walks of life, while still managing to have common ground and make strong, human connections with each other. It's not often I can read a book and be so comfortable with the treatment given to the female characters--not just the main ones, but all of them--but in Crossfire I could tell that the author would treat her characters as autonomous people capable of acting for themselves and making both good and bad choices based on their own valid logic. Henceforth, I read without fear.

I was not at all disappointed by the ending; it wrapped things up well, and seemed to be the place where things were heading.

The translated wording felt a bit dry in some places, but then, that could be a writing style of Japanese books--I'm still studying Japanese. The book dates itself by having its characters need to learn how to use computers and email, but other than that, the story carries into the 21st century just fine.

I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Drew.
597 reviews27 followers
July 24, 2011
An okay read. I liked her novel Shadow Family but didn't like another of hers called All She Was Worth. I've had this book on my shelf for awhile and turned to it in hopes of inspiring my own writing. Japanese fiction really put a spark under me for what I wanted to write, especially Natsuo Kirino and Kenzo Kitakata. So, I picked Crossfire up and read it.

It's a little sci-fi, a little mystery and a little police procedural. The plot was a little too neatly wrapped up, with characters conveniently intersecting each other at opportune times. I gave it two stars since that rating means it was "ok." It wasn't anything special for me and it wouldn't be the book I'd recommend of hers if someone asked.

Two things that I didn't like were the supernatural/sci-fi component of the story and the vigilante justice motif that ran through the story. I can't do anything about the first since that's the story she wrote. My problem, not anyone else's. As for the latter, I think she could have put more words to problematizing the vigilante theme. She provides support for it and not enough to oppose it. I fall into the opposition side and think that her bad people were cardboard cutouts and the victims were too perfectly drawn.
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