Imagine for a moment Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had decided to set his Sherlock Holmes mysteries in Japan. Now imagine the time is not the late 19th century, but the middle of the 20th century, right after the devastation of World War II. Takagi Akimitsu (1920-1995) published this, his first novel, to great acclaim in 1948 Tokyo. Translated into English for the first time in 1999 by Deborah Boehm and published by Soho Crime, this translation bridges the half century since the novel was first published and gives us a fresh, new locked room mystery in a country where full body tattoos reach the status of art.
When parts of a dismembered body are found in a room locked from the inside, Kenzo Matsushita, 29-year-old former military medic, contacts his older brother, Detective Chief Inspector Daiyu Matsushita to investigate the case. Kyosuke Kamizu, nicknamed “boy genius” and schoolmate of Kenzo from Toyko University Medical School, is enlisted to help solve the case. Kenzo is Doc Watson to Kyosuke’s Sherlock Holmes.
Most entrancing in this mystery, perhaps, is the culture that surrounds art tattoos. The locked room is of course a mind-bender. Additionally, one cannot help but be drawn to the enigmatic, self-contained, and suave Kyosuke. Sherlock is the absolute yardstick and measure Takagi means us to use. All this is overlaid with a gauzy screen of Japanese culture and habits. It is fascinating: oriental, yet the best Sherlock impersonation I have met.
Takagi won the Japan Mystery Writers Award in 1950 for his second mystery called
The Noh Mask Murder Case
. However, to my knowledge, only The Informer
(1965), a mystery based on a true stock market scam, and Honeymoon to Nowhere
(1965) have been translated into English, all by Soho Crime.
A note to the publisher: The digital file for this downloaded book was rife with extensive errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It was difficult to read. Small mistakes like those found in advance galleys can be accommodated, but the mistakes in this actually made it difficult for me to understand what was going on. Since I paid full price for the book, it stands to reason I would like a product that is not defective. Digital files produced by different vendors have different outcomes, and this one definitely needed massaging. Hope to see you do better in the future.