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OF HUMAN BONDAGE: A REVIEW OF THE ROPE ARTIST

Fuminori Nakumara is the Stanley Kubrick of crime fiction. He executes a cold, sharp, formalized style that pulls out the emotions from the reader on their own terms. He has an ability to draw out our interest in the characters and the fringe societies they move through. His latest, The Rope Artist is one of his darkest examples of this.



The story follows two police detectives in a unique way. Mikaya Togashi is that cop who operates on the edge, understanding the dark side of his cases by interacting with it. He catches the murder of Kazunari Yoshikawa, a kinbaku instructor or "rope artist", who specializes in knots for the bondage of women in the S&N scene. Yuichi Hayamana, a detective who appears in other Nakumara novels, is the more cerebral and wishes to team up with Togashi, knowing even his extraordinary skills at reading evidence will require more. Togashi proves leary and strikes out on his own.


Togashi goes deep into Yoshikawa's lifestyle. We learn that he may have been a part of it once. This becomes apparent as he rekindles a relationship he once had with one of Yoshikawa's "slaves". As he goes deeper into the case and lifestyle, things become muddled and a woman connected to the case is murdered, Hayamana takes over the investigation, as well as the books narrative, having to look into his fellow detective as well the homicides,. The question becomes what will take him down the dark rabbit hole and if he can climb out better than Togashi.


Nakumari demonstrates his ability to clearly guide us both through the world and plot clearly. His writing carries a precision with a presence that keeps us locked in. He creates atmosphere through character action and dialogue instead of mood writing. It holds little judgement for the people in the story. He leaves that to the reader.


The sexual situations are graphic and many people will find them offensive. My take is that he is depicting people making connections they can't in a "normal" way. The actions become more disturbing when we understand the humanity behind them.


Much credit needs to go the translation by Sam Bett. One wrong english word choice could bring this story down with Nakumari's sparse writing style. We see and clearly feel the author's mood and intent.


The Rope Artist takes you into both a different country and lifestyle. Nakumari gives us a dark, engaging tale that works as a meditation on how a culture relates to its fringe culture. Readers willing to walk on the wild side will find something poetic and haunting.


-review by Scott Montgomery

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