Japanese Literature discussion

The Lady Killer
This topic is about The Lady Killer
55 views
Book Club > 4/19 The Lady Killer

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments This thread is for our April discussion of Masako Togawa’s The Lady Killer, first published in 1963 and re-released by Pushkin Vertigo In
October 2018.

The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa

Lady Killer by Masako Togawa

Schwestern der Nacht by Masako Togawa

The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa

The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa

De Ladykiller by Masako Togawa

Lady Killer by Masako Togawa

I read it last fall and am looking forward to reading everyone’s thoughts on it. It certainly is a change of pace from our March read.

Who’s in?


Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments I'll get to it soon! (view spoiler)


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments Christian wrote: "I'll get to it soon! [spoilers removed]"

Christian, it’s great to see you here, even when it’s an ephemeral visit, lol.


message 4: by Bill (last edited Apr 03, 2019 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill Johnston | 656 comments It's a quick read, and I finished it already.

If I can divide the novel into four parts (the table of contents does...), I really enjoyed the prose style in parts one and two and the tension building through part two.

Part three struck me as uninspired both in plot and writing. Odd, isn't it? Did others feel the same? But part four, short though it was, had the sort of prose I enjoyed at the beginning again.

My first question for the crowd is: is Honda such a bad person? Characters in the book throw around the judgement 'immoral' as if it's obvious.


message 5: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim | 152 comments Bill wrote: "Part three struck me as uninspired both in plot and writing. Odd, isn't it? Did others feel the same? But part four, short though it was, had the sort of prose I enjoyed at the beginning again.
"


I agree completely. I was honestly a bit put out when it switched to our new narrator, who I found uninteresting and his section repetitive (until the old man got more involved).

Here is the review I posted after finishing, followed by some spoiler things I found interesting:

Ichiro Honda, like many people, keeps a journal. Like many of those people, he would be quite embarrassed if anyone actually read his journal. Unlike some people though, his “Hunter’s Journal” is really just a list of sexual conquests. You see he lives in Tokyo, flying to Osaka only on the weekends to visit his wife. Every night in Tokyo he reinvents himself; he becomes a reporter, or someone who works in film, or a foreigner who barely speaks Japanese, whatever will get him close enough to his new target. He is the lady killer of the title.

Or is he? As one night after his latest victory, he hears that the previous girl has been found murdered. Then it happens again, and again. It seems like far worse things could come from his journal being found…

This was a solid little noir. I can’t say that is was great, but it was an enjoyable enough read. I never felt like putting it down at any point. It shines best in my opinion when it deals with the nature of guilt, and I don’t mean a guilty conscience. It discusses the nature of guilt in terms of a court of law and guilt of morals... and how one’s perspective of the second can influence the first.

My main complains against the book mostly come in during the second half, as we get a drastic shift in the focus of the story. The second half is far more investigation, which while interesting, follows a very repetitive pattern, that I felt wore out its welcome after a bit. Again, not enough to ever really make me want to quit, but enough that I wished we would move on a bit.

I must also say that honestly this is a very “modern” feeling book, with its frank depictions of sexuality (in multiple fashions) and the way it flows. If it wasn’t for the lack of smart phones and various other gadgets, one might be quite surprised to hear that it’s over 50 years old.

In closing: I feel like this is way too short of a review, but I honestly just don’t have much to say. The book is entertaining, but not really that noteworthy in my mind. It succeeded in what it sets out to do, but it feels like there was more potential to it that it never quite reaches. 3/5 stars and a recommendation to fans of Japanese pulp just looking for a fun time killer.

Now onto some spoilers!

(view spoiler)


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments Bill wrote: "It's a quick read, and I finished it already.

If I can divide the novel into four parts (the table of contents does...), I really enjoyed the prose style in parts one and two and the tension build..."


I initially found him to be the worst kind of reptilian user, but moved slightly in his direction by the end. I tried to make some excuses for the age of the book, and he doesn’t force anyone to over-imbibe; however, between his objectification and targeting of certain women he thinks will be desperate, his intentional and casual reduction of them to types and his encouragement of alcohol consumption n order to reduce inhibitions, it was truly a tiny, tiny movement for me. Each is sullied and dismissed by him, with the very real possibility of pregnancy and having no good marriage options available to them. Isn’t that what a contemporary Japanese reader would have appreciated and judged him for ?

My memory was that the author wanted the reader to start out thinking Honda an evil and careless cad, but have only the issue of whether he was also a murderer in play, while then having Honda’s lengthy journal bring the reader to a more favorable view. So the characters calling Honda immoral was mere theater and didn’t reflect the author’s view of Honda, but were part of that early manipulation of the reader. Do you agree or am I mis-remembering the text? I read it last August over a two-day period and defer to you. .


Bill Johnston | 656 comments I think your memory holds up quite well.

Honda sees himself as a sexual predator (thus the 'Hunter's Journal'). He lies and tricks women to get them into bed. But there's a lot of dastardly things he doesn't do: he doesn't rape, threaten, or drug anyone. He is apparently only interested in drunken, consensual sex. I don't feel he had done wrong by his one-night stands, who should sort of expect that's the end of it. Where I found him a low-down skunk was dating a woman a few times, and then after he finally gets her in bed, stops calling.

The multiple pregnancies in the book make me wonder about the availability of condoms in Japan in 1963. They were certainly widely available over a decade earlier, during the post-war GI prostitution boom.


message 8: by Carol (last edited Apr 03, 2019 05:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments Bill wrote: "I think your memory holds up quite well.

Honda sees himself as a sexual predator (thus the 'Hunter's Journal'). He lies and tricks women to get them into bed. But there's a lot of dastardly things..."


They were widely available everywhere but it wasn’t until the AIDS crisis (and several years into it) before it became okay to ask a guy to use one, and he’d agree if asked. If a woman had condoms in her nightstand or handbag, she was regarded as morally challenged (by a guy who’d come home with her for a one night stand, yes — the irony was never lost on me). I’ve heard. From friends.


message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Josh | 269 comments I remember liking it, but not loving it. Shall have to wait and see if I have any good comments to add here.


message 10: by Bill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill Johnston | 656 comments The translation of this novel is a bit odd. It can't decide whether to be American English or British English (it vacillates between 'apartment' and 'flat', for example).

It also has some real zingers like (not an exact quote) "Her apartment was only a single room, 100 feet squared." That's not an apartment! It's an indoor sports field! :)

My copy is an old one from 1985, translated by Simon Grove. Perhaps it's been cleaned up in more recent releases.


message 11: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim | 152 comments Bill wrote: "My first question for the crowd is: is Honda such a bad person? Characters in the book throw around the judgement 'immoral' as if it's obvious. "

I struggle with this one a bit to be completely honest. He is certainly not as horrible as public opinion of him becomes (for obvious reasons), but I honestly can't say I like him as a person. He's obviously a manipulator, creating personas to target each woman individually, and in his own view a sexual predator (in a rare case where that term sound worse than actually presented, as it sounds far more illegal in phrasing). When I say predator, I should probably say hunter would be more of his point of view, but it seems more animalistic, borderline a compulsion in presentation. He is not a person I particularly like, and indeed I think the early scene where the pregnant woman kills herself (I don't have my book on me and I'm blanking on the name) and she mentions that she doesn't even blame him was a needed line, because had she blamed him, it would turn pretty much all reader sympathy against him. But that's just my take. :)

I found this the most interesting part of the novel. At least the guilty in terms of morality (or at least the general consensus of morality) vs. guilty in a court of law. Anyone who studies law at all knows that guilty of a crime and being immoral are different things, but public perception often forces the second into the first category. I think the novel handled this aspect well, and honestly I would have liked to have seen it explored a bit more.

Bill wrote: "It also has some real zingers like (not an exact quote) "Her apartment was only a single room, 100 feet squared." That's not an apartment! It's an indoor sports field! :)

My copy is an old one from 1985, translated by Simon Grove. Perhaps it's been cleaned up in more recent releases."


The edition I have is the newest one, but it uses the Grove translation. Either they edited it or I totally missed that line. Either way, amusing find. :D


Carola (carola-) | 119 comments I just finished the book. Not blown away by it, and I certainly did not feel any sympathy for Honda (or most of the other characters).

I agree that Shinji's investigation felt very repetitive and unimaginative. Got much better once Hatanaka got involved.

(view spoiler)


message 13: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann I really liked this novel; I think it holds up to the passage of time pretty well. Yes, today it would be easier with DNA to prove Honda's innocence early on, but somewhat ironic and prophetic when Taneko Honda says, "Unless science has made progress by then..."

I especially liked some of the little details thrown in, about inconsequential characters, almost for comic effect. "....Shinji reflected that here was a man whose mouth never stopped moving, either in eating or in speech." I like those kind of offhand observations.

I like reading books that give me a look into another culture. It's true that being a Brit, Simon Grove's translation gives that kind of spin on the Japanese story. Here we don't usually use words like "wardrobe" for "dresser," "letterbox" for "mailbox", “atelier” for “studio apartment.” Even "pederast" isn't too common. I haven't heard the term Gaffer since Gaffer Hexam in Our Mutual Friend. It's probably just a combination of Brit vs. Americanisms and 1963. I read a 1985 library copy.


Agnetta | 281 comments 36% in.

How annoyed I was when discovering I was reading the german translation of the English translation of the original. As per principle, I do not read double translations (seriously !). But well, since it is just a cirmi novel, no high flying literatur , I carry on with the german version, as I have this objective of reading in german this year... it reads very fast.

I was kind of astonished that at 25% one already knows what is going on, or at least one thinks she does. But it is amusing.

(view spoiler)


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments Agnetta wrote: "36% in.

How annoyed I was when discovering I was reading the german translation of the English translation of the original. As per principle, I do not read double translations (seriously !). But w..."


I’m sorry about the double translation surprise. Not sure with this one that you’re missing much, as you note. Totally agree with your spoiler commentary, too.


message 16: by Suki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 54 comments I just finished Togawa's The Master Key. It was marvellously creepy, and I have high hopes for The Lady Killer, which I am starting today.


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1151 comments Suki wrote: "I just finished Togawa's The Master Key. It was marvellously creepy, and I have high hopes for The Lady Killer, which I am starting today."

I need to read Master Key. Thanks for the rec!


message 18: by Zak (new)

Zak | 10 comments I really enjoyed The Master Key.


Marie-Therese (mariethrse) | 5 comments For whatever it's worth, I enjoyed both books but think 'The Master Key' is superior. It's just deeper, more complex, and far more twisty. If you enjoyed 'The Lady Killer', you owe it to yourself to seek out and read 'The Master Key'.


message 20: by Suki (last edited May 14, 2019 10:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 54 comments I finished The Lady Killer, and I really liked the twist at the end. After The Master Key, I was expecting to be ambushed by a great twist, and I wasn't disappointed. I liked the way both books started to kind of meander along a bit in the middle, then WHAM! you get hit with the twist. I think I enjoyed The Master Key a tiny bit more because it was more slice-of-life in the women's apartment building, while The Lady Killer was police procedural style (lawyer procedural?), which can get kind of repetitious, as mentioned in the thread above. I hope that Pushkin will publish more of Togawa's works-- I see that there are a couple of other books in English translation that are out of print.


Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments Finished it yesterday... I can't say I liked it unfortunately. I thought it was too obvious that her sister did it, until the final plot twist which felt forced to me. Either way, it seems hard to believe that someone would go to that extent (i.e. killing innocent women). Why wouldn't she torture and/or murder Honda directly?

Most of the book is about clue-finding and theory-building. I wish we had seen a bit of the trial: how strong were those evidences, how strong the motive, what witnesses do we have? The author drops the big Truth onto us instead. That's probably at the core of why I'm not a fan of crime fiction in the first place. That and the fact that the genre relies on plot twists, so you know whatever seems logical is actually not what happened.

Actually, has anyone good suggestions for more 'courtroom' action?


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 206 comments Started this today, I'm enjoying it already. I think I made a mistake reading The Master Key first and putting this off because I was disappointed by that book.


back to top