“Usually when people tell me these kinds of tales, they never turn out to be as interesting to me as they are to the teller, much less potential material for a book. But this case was different . . . This was no ordinary murder. The perpetrator had scrupulously planned the whole ghastly deed. What’s more, it was worthy of the label ‘Locked Room Murder Mystery.'”
The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo was first published in 1946, and is the first of many Kosuke Kindaichi novels. Now, it’s being translated into English for the first time (by Louise Heal Kawai), and fans of Golden Age mystery and detective novels should get their hands on a copy.
The story focuses on a double murder: a newlywed couple are found killed inside their locked room, with the murder weapon, a katana, outside in the snow. How did the killer get in, kill them both, and get out? Only one of the finest detectives in Japan, Kosuke Kindaichi, can figure this one out.
I was a little wary starting this book. It’s often referred to as a classic Japanese murder mystery, and I tend to dislike “classic” novels. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The translation was incredibly well done, and the flow of the writing was wonderful. I was immediately pulled in to the story, and had no problems visualizing the house where the crime took place. I was totally captivated, and the plot kept me on my toes.
The author drops hints throughout the entire story, but there are still elements of mystery throughout the book. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing, and be skeptical of all the characters involved. Even if you’re able to figure out the twist, the atmosphere of the novel is still enough to keep you hooked until the end.
One aspect of the book that I really loved was how other mystery authors and popular books are referenced. One of the characters loves detective novels, and has a library full of books. It felt a bit surreal to be reading a crime novel that references Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (among others), and made my reading experience even more enjoyable.
The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo has been recommended to fans of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and I couldn’t agree more. It has everything a western mystery does, but takes place in Japan instead.
Thank you to the publisher (Pushkin Press) for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. The Honjin Murders will be available on June 2, 2020, and can be pre-ordered or purchased wherever books are sold.