Japan's reigning queen of crime fiction presents a dark yet absorbing portrait of four women driven to murderous acts by cheating spouses, dead-end jobs, and ungrateful children. In Out -- the first of Natsuo Kirino's many novels to be translated into English -- we meet Yayoi Yamamoto, a young mother who snaps when her philandering husband comes home drunk, strangling him with her belt. ''Yayoi watched intently as he scratched at the leather, and then yanked even harder.... It feels so good, she told herself.'' With help from her girlfriends, the body disappears. Think sushi knives and garbage bags. What follows, as the women try to outwit the police and a mysterious stranger bent on revenge, is as much a character study of disaffected housewives as a knuckle-clenching thriller. Warning: The squeamish shouldn't check this ''Out.''