Fourth Estate triumphs in five-publisher auction for 'provocative' novel by Yuzuki

Fourth Estate triumphs in five-publisher auction for 'provocative' novel by Yuzuki

Fourth Estate has won a five-publisher auction for a "highly original and provocative" novel about a convicted woman serial killer and chef by Asako Yuzuki.

Kishani Widyaratna, editorial director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to Butter from Stephen Edwards at RCW on behalf of Shinchosha Publishing and English Agency Japan. North American rights went to Helen Atsma at Fourth Estate's sister HaperCollins division, Ecco.

Butter will be published by Fourth Estate in spring 2023, in a coordinated campaign alongside Ecco . The book has received a string of foreign rights sales selling to Calmann-Lévy in France, Aufbau Verlag in Germany, HarperCollins in Italy and Ediciones Temas de Hoy in Spain.

The novel follows journalist Rika Machida in her investigation of serial killer Manako Kajii, who is convicted of luring in wealthy men with her expensive cookery classes, only to seduce and murder them, taking their money before moving on to her next victim. It is set in the wake of the Fukushima disaster when dairy became scarce in Japan, making butter a rare commodity which is obsessed over by the characters.

The publisher said the book comments on "misogyny, eating, obsession and romance in contemporary Japan" and is based on the true story of Kanae Kijima, a serial killer and con woman known as "The Konkatsu Killer", convicted for poisoning three would-be husbands and suspected of killing four more.

Widyaratna said: "Butter is a novel like no other: part psychological crime story, part exploration of the pressures on women’s lives in contemporary Japan and part meditation on the delicious pleasures, and societal pressures, associated with food. This unique combination is deftly woven together to deliver an ambitious and impossible to put down novel that surprises, unsettles, challenges and thrills in turn. We can’t wait to share Asako Yuzuki’s boldly original novel with English language readers everywhere."

Yuzuki said: "Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved English stories. I was always drawn to the descriptions of food, especially the buttery sweets and breads. It feels an astonishing coincidence that my work will be translated in that country, and that it is my book about butter. At the same time, it also feels like one of those unexpected twists of fate encountered by the heroines in English novels that I loved."

Yuzuki was born in Tokyo in 1981. She has been nominated multiple times for the Naoko Prize, and her novels have been adapted for television, radio and film.