Inspector Imanishi Investigates
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Inspector Imanishi Investigates

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  385 ratings  ·  68 reviews
The corpse of an unknown provincial is discovered under the rails of a train in a Tokyo station, and Detective Imanishi is assigned to the case.
ebook, 313 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Crime (first published 1961)
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Inspector Imanishi Investigates? Yes he does. Even on bank holidays. He takes annual leave ... in order to investigate. He spends his wife's savings on investigating.

In the best traditions of these fictional detectives, Imanishi has annoying hobbies that have to be mentioned in every other chapter. His are haiku and bonsai. Yawn. It reminds me of a scene from the best TV comedy ever written, 'Spaced':

"Come up with any exciting literary characters lately?"
"Yeah, actually, yes. 'Dizzy Steinway'."...more
This was an interesting detective story, though a little overly complicated, perhaps even mired in the details. Having just visited Japan, I felt there was something authentically Japanese about this attention to detail, perhaps even at the expense of the overall or general. Characters seem to want more fleshing out, setting as well. And the narrative is a bit disjointed.

A murder victim found on the train tracks in late 20th century Tokyo remains unidentified for the longest time, until a bumpki...more
This was written in 1961. Plotwise, it's very complicated and tightly-woven, replete with subtle clues and red herrings. But stylistically, it's plodding. Probably due to the translation, the writing is choppy and repetitive. And perhaps because of the culture, perhaps because of the period, the process of investigation is laughable at times. Examples: the overheard word "Kameda" is instantly assumed - for no apparent reason - to be a person, and the police proceed to look for such a person, ass...more
Inspector Imanishi Investigates is a police procedural, first published in 1961 under the title Vessel of Sand (Suna no Utsuwa). It's written by Mstsumoto Seicho, translated into English by Beth Carey.

It's hard to know how to read it.

When I first started on it, I thought it was a meticulously rendered police procedural, very modern. It took me a while to work out that it was set and written so long in the past as the attention to police work and the tone seemed really modern. Also the expressi...more

Translation is a difficult thing. Language is an imprecise and imperfect tool. To be a good translator of novels requires not just an expert mastery of the languages and cultures but also that the translator is both a writer and an artist in their own right.
This book, while structurally fairly sound as a police procedural novel, suffers under the weight of awkward writing due to the translation. The first clue should have been the title. From the poetic and somewhat evocative Japanese title "Su...more
08/26/05 #151
RATING: 4.5/B+
GENRE/PUB DATE/# OF PGS: Mystery, 1961, 313
TIME/PLACE: 1950's Tokyo
CHARACTERS: Inspector Imanishi
COMMENTS: Very good police procedural. A disfigured body
is found in the railyard. Inspector Imanishi has to discover who the victim is as well as the murderer. When the victim is identified as a retired policeman and one who everyone loved, the case becomes very important and many off-hours and personal travel...more
Written in the 1960's. Seicho Matsumoto does a fine job conveying Inspector Imanishi's systematic murder investigation within the rigid social structure of post war Japan.

Japan is a country where any stranger is an oddity, detectives investigate in their free time out of duty, wives shine the shoes of their men before sending them off to work, families bathe in public baths, darker skin is seen as low class and where family history is everything.

One criticism, two suspects live conveniently an...more
Masanaka Takashima
Feb 20, 2012 Masanaka Takashima rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Masanaka by: Daniel Arrieta
I liked Inspector Imanishi very much. He is a hardworking, self-giving and family-loving commoner police detective, who persists to tackle a difficult murder case everybody else has given up to solve. He is a kind of a guy people want to exist and work for the community's peace and order. The 1960s was Japan's good old time, and it is seen and felt fully in this good natured book. The capture at the airport was meaningful, and should be like this. The emerging young people in the cultural vangua...more
Thanks to my daughter recommending this book I have been introduced to a whole new world of crime writing from a Japanese master. Published in 1961, this novel immediately called to mind the Sjowahl/Wahloo series starring Martin Beck. Much more than a police procedural, Inspector Imanishi Investigates examines Japanese culture with an unblinking eye. The Inspector is in his forties, has earned a fine professional reputation while balancing a traditional home life. His interest in gardening and H...more
Apr 24, 2010 Kay is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I am quite hard to please when it comes to crime fiction. This is a genre that relies to a great extent on a well-crafted denouement, which is often precisely the let down. Some books, like those by Barbara Vine are redeemed by exceptionally sophisticated plotting and writing, even though the finish does not quite live up to my expectations. So, I do realize that by giving Inspector Imanishi Investigates a five-star rating, I might be setting future readers for disappointment by raising their ex...more
I wasn't thrilled by this book. I think a lot of that was because I'm not as familiar with the Japanese culture as I am that of Europe. (All the more reason to read more of these, right?) But I have read a couple other Asian/East Asian mystery/detective novels and I liked them better. So it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why this book didn't appeal to me.

A badly battered body has appeared under a train and Inspector Imanishi is part of the group assigned to the murder task force. The case is...more
This novel is unlike any other detective novel I have ever read. In many ways the 12-year-old detective mentioned above is a more typical fictional detective than Inspector Imanishi. I'm used to detectives with a permanent swagger in their walk who throw themselves headlong into danger in their pursuit of justice. While Inspector Imanishi gets his information through polite requests and quiet determination. The case occasionally goes cold and he works on other things for a while. He shows concer...more
INSPECTOR IMANISHI INVESTIGATES is the first Japanese written crime / mystery book that I can remember reading for quite some time, and it must have worked as I've been tracking down other examples and other authors to try.

When an unidentified (and it soon appears) difficult to identify man is found under the rails of a Tokyo Station early one morning, he's been strangled and dumped on the rails - seemingly in an attempt to take away any further chance of identifying him when the first train of...more
Jun 05, 2012 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I picked this up during a trip to Cambridge and a visit to Heffers. I had been looking for the 'recently translated' section and noticed that they had a section for 'crime translated'. I picked this up when I saw title and author, intrigued as to what Japanese crime writing would be like.

The answer is rather good. My overall impression would be that the novel builds its plot, taking this reader down a number of avenues while the protagonist, Inspector Imanishi, works through the crime, yet at th...more
Keisuke Fukuyama
I read both Japanese original version and French translation.
It is a pity that French version is drastically cut and condensed.
Nonetheless it is still a good novel.

Seicho Matsumoto was born in 1909. His parents were very poor and the family moved to Shimonoseki and Kokura, where they peddled drawing a wagon.
After graduating from an elementary school, Seicho started working as an apprentice at a printing office. It was rigorous labor, smeared with ink in a muggy basement with the motor running.
This title's initials accurately reflect my feelings on the tome: ay ay ay! What began with all the ingredients of a perfectly fine detective mystery ground to an unfortunate crawl, barely making it over the finish line.

Inspector Imanishi is an old-school, haiku-writing, middle-aged police detective solving crimes in early 1960s Tokyo. He is very much aware that the times they are a-changin' and that fresher perspectives (i.e. younger cops) are needed as Japan transitions out of a post-war menta...more
Nancy Oakes
Inspector Imanishi Investigates is a serious crime novel which starts out with a murdered victim discovered under the tracks of a train in a station. The victim has not been killed by the train; his face was bashed in and he was strangled. The only clues the police have are that he spoke with a northern dialect, and the word "Kameda" was overheard in a conversation between the murderer and his victim in a bar. So from these two clues as a starting point, Inspector Imanishi of Tokyo must track d...more
As I recall, in one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, Arthur reads a book that is of high regard from some planet famous for its novels. Arthur cannot figure out why the book is supposed to be so good; it seems like the book is just about a normal person and his day to day life. The main character inconsequentially dies, I think, around the 75% mark, but the book goes on.
I was reminded of that episode while reading Inspector Imanishi Investigates. No, Imanishi does not die (sorry, t...more
Originally published in Japan in the 1960s, this is the first installment in the Inspector Imanishi series -- the translation is excellent and flows well. This is sure to delight anyone who is a fan of the classic detective story and enjoys mysteries in Asian settings. The mystery was intriguing and kept me interested from the first page until the last. I really enjoyed the primary character, Inspector Imanishi, who was intelligent and likable. How can you not be charmed by a police detective wh...more
A real disappointment. I can't recall not finishing a mystery set in Japan. Glaciers are melting faster than the pace of this police procedural. I made it to page 70 and no longer cared what happened or was going to happen. We've had a violent murder in Tokyo and the police can't figure out who the victim is or who the man he was last seen alive with is. They go off on a wild goose chase to a northern province. There they find out about a stranger acting strangely. Yeah, so unusual. The behavior...more
Jason Paulios
Cover blurb says "tantalizing...a superb thriller". Sorry but there was no thrill at all in this one. I really could care less about suspense, but this story was so dry and unenthusiastic. It is a difficult tale to tell since it is basically an unsolvable cold case that the determined Inspector has to methodically unravel. Maybe it was the cultural differences that threw me, there is so much apologizing for asking questions of suspects and witnesses that it made the book twice as long as it need...more
Set in Tokyo, this mystery is the Japanese equivalent to our hard-boiled detective stories but not. Inspector Imanishi is a hard drinking, chain smoking police inspector but instead of street-smart, trench coat wearing, and swaggering, he is extremely polite, meticulous, and conventionally Japanese. No sex, seedy strip bars, and drunkenness, but plenty of sake, sushi, noodle slurping, and haiku.

I enjoyed this book. I gave it 4 stars but probably would give it 3.5 if I could. It does read to me...more
This is a little gem of a book.

The tone is vastly different to that of modern detective novels, as it is set and was written several decades ago. There are also, as others have pointed out, things that have doubtlessly been lost in translation.

This is not your usual police procedural. There is a lot to be gleaned if you're at all curious about Japanese culture of the mid-twentieth century.
It's Detective Fiction. I've rarely been a fan of the genre with the exception of some of its more "anti" and metafictional counterparts from the 1980s and Kobo Abe's work. Matsumoto tends to drag his puzzles and riddles out a little bit too long. But if what I read is true, then there's a good reason why he's so celebrated within the genre in Japan for focusing on social and political issues in the country. The novel does have the virtue of incorporating social changes contemporary to its time.
very somber investigation thingy w/ a lot of trains (imanishi rides on trains, talks to people on trains, important plot girl gets groped on train + has story written about it + imanishi reads story in newspaper while on train) and also curious cultural facts... did you know jpaanese bumpkins drink their breakfast miso soup by poouring it over rice? strange but true. the mystery itself is uhhhh not that compelling but has a interesting twist whre DO NOT READ THIS I AM GOING TO SPOIL THE ENDING a...more
Jeffrey Miner
This comes off kind of flat. Characterizations are spare to the point of near-invisibility, internal feelings are discussed hardly at all, personality conflicts or disagreements are essentially absent, and little or no character development occurs throughout. Aside from the simple tension of the investigation, there is little or no additional dramatic tension (social? interpersonal?). I can't tell whether some or all of this is a product of translation, a cultural issue, or what, but I suspect I...more
Sam Catanzaro
To fully appreciate this book, I'd suggest reading either Chandler or Ellroy after. While the mystery is intriguing, it's the little things that make this book what it is. Imanishi is not portrayed as an hero. He is very mundane as far as detectives go. Reading the book, one gets fully emerged in 1960s Japanese culture. Matsumoto gives thought to the subtle nuances that are often ignored in a mystery. Imanishi's passion for food, bonsais, and the newspaper are just a part of the story as the act...more
Doubtless my enjoyment of this police procedural was compromised by the translation and by my cultural obtuseness. What I found to be a tedious, plodding plot may have been appreciated by others as a meticulous, refined puzzle. I found a reliance on coincidence that beggared the imagination. The concluding elaborate explanation of the many threads of the investigation seemed a bit deus ex machina. A writer with a better talent for dialogue and character development could have shown the plot deve...more
Bridget Weller
I have a during suspicion that this book has been done a significant disservice by an uninhabited translation, but some Japanese speaker out there will have to comment.The prose style is flat and featureless, and the characters struggle valiantly to come to life in the face of this stifling effect. To the writers credit, they nearly manage it. The plotting its also impressive, meticulously uncovering an'll undetectable' crime through quiet persistence and hard slog.Glad to have read it, but won'...more
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Seicho Matsumoto (松本清張, Matsumoto Seichō), December 21, 1909 – August 4, 1992) was a Japanese writer.

Matsumoto's works created a new tradition of Japanese crime fiction. Dispensing with formulaic plot devices such as puzzles, Matsumoto incorporated elements of human psychology and ordinary life into his crime fiction. In particular, his works often reflect a wider social context and postwar nihili...more
More about Seicho Matsumoto...
Points and Lines The Voice and Other Stories Pro Bono 砂の器〈下〉 (新潮文庫) Стена глаз

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