The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: Detective Mitarai's Casebook Hardcover – 31 Oct 2005
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The girl's murders follow a bizarre logic based on alchemy and astrology. And it's a young astrologer who tackles the case confidently after the police and scores of amateur detectives have tried and failed for more than forty years. Kiyoshi learns about the case from his friend Kazumi, a great fan of mystery novels. These two young men bring new enthusiasm to the case and find new evidence. The interplay between the two is fun. Kiyoshi is has terrific mood swings. Kazumi is constantly badgering the secretive Kiyoshi to share ideas.
The book is full of diagrams illustrating scenes of crime and Kiyoshi's elaborate deductions. And occasionally the author smugly assures us we have all the clues we need to solve the case, but I couldn't figure out whodunit. The plot is devious, the writing style lively.
I found the beginning of the book a bit daunting, because of the creepy insanity of the crimes. So I encourage you not to be disheartened in the early pages. The Japanese names can be a bit confusing too. Even keeping Kazumi and Kiyoshi straight isn't always easy. But the book is worth a little effort. It's a modern classic of detection. No devotee of the mystery genre should miss it.
The story begins some time back in the 1930s, and its focal point is a bizarre case known as the Tokyo Zodiac Murders. In the last will & testament of an artist under the influences of astrology and alchemy, he sets forth his plan to create the perfect woman...by killing off female relatives, including his daughters, to combine the best parts of all of them in his creation. The murders occurred, but this happened after the artist was found dead, in his studio, locked from the outside. The clues left little to go on, and solving the horrifying case became an obsession for many over the last decades. One detective, who is also a fortune teller, decides to take it on and solve it where others have failed. With the help of his friend, a fan of detective fiction, he tries to do what so many have attempted and failed over the a 40-year period of time.
An amazing book, one that will totally occupy you as you read. There are a number of possibilities that present themselves as the two friends delve into the past. The characterization is very well done, the writing is excellent, and the mystery itself (not to mention the solution) is nothing like I've ever read before. Hooray for a mystery I could really sink my teeth into.
I think this one will really appeal to people like myself who enjoy the different take on mysteries provided by Japanese mystery authors, and those who enjoy the classic locked-room/impossible crimes scenario. It isn't a mystery for cozy readers or readers who want an easy solution -- this requires the reader's participation the entire way. Also, if alchemy and astrology aren't your thing, then you may want to skip it.
An excellent mystery -- I enjoy finding these little gems now and then. Most highly recommended.
The story starts off with a powerful hook. In 1936, an old eccentric artist named Heikichi Umezawa has been found dead, leaving behind a last will and confession detailing his obsession with alchemy and astrology, and his plan to construct a perfect woman, named Azoth. His plans are incredibly detailed, but basically involve taking body parts from several astrologically perfect women, then assembling those pieces together in sequence. He is dead before he can put his plans into place, but someone else finishes the deed. The murders are never solved, and remain one of Japan's most studied cases, with amature detectives pouring over the details in the same way as they do with Jack the Ripper nowadays. Fast forward to 1979, where Kazumi Ishioka, a freelance illustrator and fan of mysteries, gleans some new insight into the case and decides to pursue it. He enlists his friend, astrologer Kiyoshi Mitarai, and the two begin their dark journey into the mind of the Zodiac murderer, going down roads that seem obvious once the links are made, but appear impossible beforehand.
Author Soji Shimada knows how to construct a good murder mystery. He takes the classic Holmes/Watson team, a fact which he quickly acknowledges in the text of the book, and uses them to hunt an intricate puzzle, based on his own in-depth knowledge as an astrologer. Many mystery staples are here. A locked-door murder. A prime suspect dead before the murders occurred. He takes the basic elements and cliches, gives the reader a nod to let them know that he knows what he is doing, then shuffles them all around until you are completely baffled and utterly enthralled. Especially impressive is his use of multiple writing styles, such as flipping between Heikichi Umezawa insane confession and Ishioka and Mitarai's lighthearted banter. He also makes judicious use of charts and illustrations, even occasionally breaking the fourth wall and personally challenging the reader to solve the mystery before he reveals all in the next chapter.
The only shame with "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders" is that it is the only one of Shimada's many "Detective Mitarai Mystery" novels to be translated into English. As soon as you flip the last page, you are going to be hungry for more of the same. Let's hope they they are forthcoming!