This page is an index of all of the works currently reviewed on the blog that are written by Japanese authors.
The 8 Mansion Murders
An impossible crime story in which a businessman is shot in the heart with a crossbow in a deserted courtyard.
Though its puzzle may not be quite as ingeniously constructed as either The Moai Island Puzzle or The Decagon House Mystery, other shin honkaku titles published by Locked Room International, I think it is most accessible of the three and it might make a good first step for readers beginning to explore this style of Japanese crime writing.
The Moai Island Puzzle
A mixture of treasure hunt and impossible crime story set on an island covered in wooden moai statues.
Though not perfect, I think if you are able to look past its sometimes dull protagonist and investigative procedure, there is some excellent material here.
Murder in a Peking Studio
A man involved in passing bribes to government officials in China is murdered in his locked studio moments after receiving $250,000 which mysteriously vanished.
The historical details are excellent and do a good job of conveying a sense of place and time. The locked room, while it takes a minute to arrive, is good enough to justify the read on that score alone.
The Devotion of Suspect X
An inverted crime story in which a high school math teacher tries to cover up a murder committed by his neighbor.
I am most impressed by the way the construction of the narrative echoes the key themes of the novel. The novel is layered extremely cleverly, building up to a really interesting and satisfying conclusion.
An inverted crime story in which we know the who and the how but are left to puzzle over why the crime was done.
What Higashino does particularly well is explore questions of what it means to be creative and the nature of the publishing industry while telling an interesting, character-driven mystery.
A Quiet Place
In this character-driven story, a Japanese businessman learns of his young wife’s death while away and returns home to find he has questions about the account of her death.
…while I think it is ultimately a very successful novel that contains some wonderful character and thematic moments, it is perhaps less compelling as an example of the mystery genre.
This book explores the circumstances leading to the murder of a schoolteacher’s very young child by two of her teenaged students.
A powerful, fascinating and utterly devastating read. The subject matter is much darker than I typically like but it is handled very well.
An inverted crime story about a young man’s discovery of a gun and an exploration of his psychology as he starts to fantasize about using it.
The problem is that as the novella strikes one note repeatedly, it ends up feeling a little repetitive by the point we reach the end and it fails to develop any great moments of surprise or the sense that the reader is engaging in an act of discovery.
The Ginza Ghost and Other Stories
A short story collection which includes a few locked room adventures.
The Ginza Ghost does at least feature a few stories that I feel will stick with me for a while and I could appreciate Osaka’s skill at inventing interesting puzzles to challenge his readers.
Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination
A collection of short stories by one of the giants of twentieth century Japanese crime fiction. Some stories are mysteries where others evoke more of an adventure style.
As a whole I was very impressed with the collection and found it to be an enjoyable and absorbing read. There is a good variety of story types and styles here and I imagine that several of these tales will stay with me for a while.
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
One of the founding texts in the shin honkaku movement in Japanese crime fiction. It is celebrated as an example of a locked room mystery although I personally found that aspect of the novel disappointing.
The locked room elements of the plot are oversold and the least interesting part of an otherwise fascinating case.
The Master Key
The author’s first work in which she explores the lives of characters living in an apartment block for single women.
…I was really impressed both by the depth of characterization as well as the sense of unease she builds in this world. At times I was left curious how some elements could be fully resolved, making the ending all the more striking and powerful.
The Lady Killer
A thriller in which we follow a man who goes into nightclubs to seduce women, keeping a diary of his conquests only to find they are starting to end up dead.
I liked the novel a lot and found its characterization and discussion of themes of social isolation and of male and female sexuality to be thoughtful and considered but I do think it is a slightly less polished work than The Master Key.
A psychosexual thriller in which a psychiatrist attempts to uncover why his patient has written a confession to killing a woman who is still alive.
…Slow Fuse feels superficial and often a little juvenile. Meanwhile the psychosexual thriller style feels aged and rooted in a form of sexual politics and gender relations that is very much of the period in which it was originally written.
Ellery Queen’s Japanese Golden Dozen
A collection of short stories selected by Fred Dannay showcasing the enormous breadth of styles in Japanese crime fiction at the time.
Several of the stories are really entertaining and imaginative. My pick of the collection is The Kindly Blackmailer in which a barber finds that a new customer intends to blackmail him for his involvement in a hit-and-run.
The Honjin Murders
The first of the Kosuke Kindaichi stories explores the murder of a bride and groom in a locked room on their wedding night.
An interesting murder story told in a journalistic style. The murder mechanism is a little much for me, but Yokomizo’s choice of killer and exploration of their motivations are excellent.