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Nick's Review

While initially sceptical, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Butter by Asako Yuziki is part thriller, part culinary exploration, a journey of self-discovery, and an examination of Japanese culture, including its struggles with misogyny. The book has been translated by Polly Barton, who has done an exceptional job. 

Asako Yuziki was inspired to write Butter by the real serial killer case of Kanae Kijima, called "The Konkatsu Killer". As reported by The Financial Times, Kanae enticed multiple men into providing her with large sums of money in exchange for her company, intimate relations, and luxurious meals - which she carefully prepared before ultimately poisoning them with carbon monoxide.

The main protagonist of Butter is Rika, a journalist looking into the Manako Kajii case. Manako Kajii, like Kanae, has been convicted of extorting money from a succession of men and killing three of them, and is currently in a Tokyo detention house awaiting her retrial. The 'Kajimana,' as the media calls the case, caused a sensation when it first went to trial; it seems the media could not get over the fact that the women who seduced all these men was overweight, and neither young nor beautiful.  Rika is astounded at how steeped in "a deep-seated hatred of women" the case appears to be. 

Rika delves into an inquiry over the case that leads her into the realm of Kajii's culinary world. It takes her into a world of food that she has never experienced, out to the beautifully atmospheric provincial hometown of Kajii, to Michelin-starred restaurants, and to dingy ramen joints. As she immerses herself in these places, Rika begins to comprehend Kajii's true nature.  Could it be that local cultural misogyny, the influence of the media, or even Kajii herself, have caused an incorrect judgment? Is Kajii truly the alleged  killer portrayed by the media?

The book is 450 pages long, but it’s a fast-paced and highly readable. It is thought provoking and invites the reader to reflect on contemporary social issues. Butter is perfect for those who appreciate a carefully crafted read with a distinctly Japanese flavour.

“There are two things I cannot tolerate: Feminists and Margarine.” Manako Kajii

Publishers Reviews

The cult Japanese bestseller about a female gourmet cook and serial killer and the journalist intent on cracking her case, inspired by a true story.

Gourmet cook Manako Kajii sits in Tokyo Detention Centre convicted of the serial murders of lonely businessmen, who she is said to have seduced with her delicious home cooking. The case has captured the nation’s imagination but Kajii refuses to speak with the press, entertaining no visitors. That is, until journalist Rika Machida writes a letter asking for her recipe for beef stew and Kajii can’t resist writing back.

Rika, the only woman in her news office, works late each night, rarely cooking more than ramen. As the visits unfold between her and the steely Kajii, they are closer to a masterclass in food than journalistic research. Rika hopes this gastronomic exchange will help her soften Kajii but it seems that she might be the one changing. With each meal she eats, something is awakening in her body, might she and Kaji have more in common than she once thought?

Inspired by the real case of the convicted con woman and serial killer, "The Konkatsu Killer", Asako Yuzuki’s Butter is a vivid, unsettling exploration of misogyny, obsession, romance and the transgressive pleasures of food in Japan.

Other Reviews

‘A full-fat, Michelin-starred treat.’ THE TIMES

'Unputdownable, breathtakingly original.’ ERIN KELLY

'I have been glued to Asako Yuzuki's new novel Butter.’ NIGEL SLATER

'Compelling, delightfully weird, often uncomfortable' PANDORA SYKES

'Luscious … I devoured this' IMOGEN CRIMP

'A salty morsel with one hell of a bite’ ALICE SLATER

‘Nothing short of ingenious’ INews

‘Ambitious and unsettling’ Guardian