Book Review: Kijo: Japan’s Most Notorious Female Criminals: Volume One by Tara A. Devlin

I’m pretty picky when it comes to how I consume true crime media. While I, like many others, am interested in the subject matter – the whys and hows things happen – I am also very aware that what I’m viewing is based around real people during the worst moments of their lives. I avoid things that feel exploitative or make light of such serious material (like NBC’s “murder mystery” show, The Thing About Pam, based on the murder of Betsy Faria). One of the reasons I felt comfortable picking up this particular book is that I’ve read a few works by Tara A. Devlin, including a prior true crime collection, Kaihan: Bizarre Crimes That Shook Japan: Volume One, so I knew going in that the women covered and their stories would be told with the utmost respect.

Devlin didn’t disappoint.

While the crimes detailed are each awful in their own right, the individuals involved are presented with well researched depth. Sometimes they are sympathetic victims of circumstance, other times, irredeemable women driven by greed and selfishness. Devlin handles all with care, regardless of whether the cases are new or old, and never treats them as if they’re gossip fodder. The women themselves are a varied group, coming from all walks of life and ranging from the schoolgirl, Nevada-tan, to elderly grandmothers. The crimes they commit are heinous, their motives not always clear, and while never glorifying them, Devlin also ensures they are fully rounded out, explaining how they came to be capable of such horrible acts.

In addition to her stellar, painstaking research, Devlin is also just an excellent writer. Though detail heavy, no account is ever dry and nothing feels over-explained or twisted for the sake of a juicer narrative. She keeps each telling rooted in fact while presenting them in an interesting way that kept me engaged.

I would definitely recommend this book for those interested in true crime, particularly with a focus on female perpetrators, and Japanese culture. It’s a fascinating, sometimes heart-wrenching read that showcases just how untrue the idea of women being the “gentler sex” really is.

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