Miyabe doesn't hide her literary inspirations. When the investigator tells a colleague of the horrors she's seen, he responds, "This isn't a Stephen King novel. Would you lay off?" Like King, Miyabe grounds her paranormal happenings in the nitty-gritty details and constraints of the real world. Junko can light a cigarette from across the room using willpower, but she also waitresses at a local café to pay her rent.
It's this kind of reality-based writing that sets Miyabe's novels apartand that has helped make her one of Japan's wealthiest authors. Readers in English may be less enthused by the translation of Crossfire, which makes Miyabe's prose sound less natural than it is in Japanese. Still, even in translation, it's a powerful and satisfying mystery. Miyabe details her characters' every thought, no matter how cutthroat or compassionate, as they argue with their families, berate themselves, fall in love and earn a living. By the end of the novel, the reader understands just how hard Junko, Ishizu and the other characters have fought for a brief taste of happiness. Miyabe's works may not be great literature, but for entertainment value and emotional oomph, they have few rivalsreal or imagined.