Asako Yuzuki, Polly Barton (trans.)

HarperCollins Publishers
United Kingdom
6 March 2024


Asako Yuzuki, Polly Barton (trans.)

There are two things that I can simply not tolerate: feminists and margarine.

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.


A self-proclaimed domestic goddess turned murderer and a quietly obsessive journalist desperate for a story meet in a prison to discuss boeuf bourguignon. They couldn’t have anything in common, right? Or will they come to understand more about each other than they could possibly realise?

Butter by Asako Yuzuki is a twisty and quirky thriller that delves deep into the connections between food, gender and domesticity to ask: what is the true power of a good meal? Rika is a reporter accustomed to late nights and convenience store ramen, determined to make it in the man’s world of publishing. Manako Kajii is her ticket to a big story: reticent, opinionated and obsessed with food, Manako stands accused of luring three men in with her delicious cooking and murdering them for their money. Indeed, food is the only reason she’s talking to Rika, as a simple question about beef stew initiates a correspondence that draws Rika deep into Manako’s world of taste and pleasure. The more she understands Manako, the more she finds herself changing, growing beyond the narrow bounds of her daily life and becoming someone new.

Asako Yuzuki fills Butter with mouth-watering descriptions of sumptuous meals and thoughtful commentary on the constricting expectations placed on women. Food becomes the vessel for this commentary, as Rika’s austere, functional dinners make way for decadent, unashamed feasts as her worldview slowly shifts, plate by plate. Rika and Manako are both complex, layered characters that are a joy to watch Yuzuki steadily unpick over the course of the novel, laying their souls bare with each tense conversation. Add a lively and varied supporting cast of characters plus a dash of humour and Butter is the perfect read for anyone who wants a darkly compelling novel about the vital importance of high-quality butter.

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