Futaro Yamada, discovered by the hugely influential mystery writer Edogawa Rampo, was hugely prolific in his lifetime, with many of his stories being adapted to film, such as Nagisa Ōshima’s thriller Pleasures of the Flesh (1965) and Samurai Reincarnation (Kinji Fukusaku, 1981). If Yamada’s name is known in the Anglophone world, however, it is usually for the manga and anime adaptations of his series The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. This newly translated edition of his 1979 novel The Meiji Guillotine Murders is an opportunity to experience his work more directly. Though published by Pushkin Press’s Vertigo imprint, which publishes detective fiction from around the world, The Meiji Guillotine Murders is a historical fiction. It has neither the narrative nor the feel of a traditional detective story, exemplified by the work of fellow Vertigo-published authors Seishi Yokomizo and Yukito Ayatsuji.

Film and television that satirize South Korea’s class division has garnered considerable audience and critical attention in recent years, notably the award-winning Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) and the record-breaking Squid Game (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021). Less well known internationally, however, is literary fiction that takes aim at South Korea’s social hierarchy. Im Seong-sun’s The Consultant, first published in Korean in 2010 and now available in English translation, takes full advantage of the medium of the novel to create an ambiguous, mysterious satire that can be grimly satirical and coldly terrifying.

A walk down any shopping street in South Korea reveals countless images of glamorous celebrity women, endorsing skincare products from the windows of stores such as Olive Young and Innisfree. Seoul’s affluent Gangnam neighborhood is crowded with buildings filled with competing plastic surgeons, and decorated with commercials with before/after photos showing the starkly unadorned next to the newly beautified. Job applicants may find themselves asked to include a headshot with a resume and cover letter. In casual conversation, it won’t be long before appearance comes up, along with myriad techniques and products that can improve it.