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Inspector Imanishi Investigates

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,197 ratings  ·  159 reviews
In the wee hours of a 1960s Tokyo morning, a dead body is found under the rails of a train, and the victim’s face is so badly damaged that police have a hard time figuring out the victim’s identity. Only two clues surface: an old man, overheard talking in a distinctive accent to a young man, and the word “kameda.” Inspector Imanishi leaves his beloved bonsai and his haiku ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Crime (first published 1961)
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,197 ratings  ·  159 reviews

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Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Japanese crime fiction with a lot of locations for setting. Reading this novel made me want to imagine the sceneries. The story was moving a lot of times in this story in various areas and demographics in Japan, from Western Okayama to Northeast Akita; from modern Tokyo theatres to ancient Ise Shrine; from poor mountain village to elite and intellectual communities.

This story is not only telling police procedural investigation, but also private-eye style investigation of Inspector Imanishi. S
Patrick Sherriff
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, crime-and-such
After having really enjoyed Matsumoto's A Quiet Place (my review is here: I was ready to have my mind blown by this... but it wasn't. Possibly that's because the book was written a good 10 years earlier, I'm not sure. And whIle I enjoyed Imanishi's dogged pursuit of clues around 1960s Japan, complete with intentional and unintentional glimpses of Japan's work ethic, sense of personal responsibility and non-existent home-life, something about the mystery ...more
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Castle of Sand (Suna no utsuwa) by Seicho Matasumoto is a surprisingly engaging 4.5 stars read. The book has always been considered by many as Mr. Matsumoto's best novel, and despite of the the 500+ pages of the book, the novelist still managed to construct a solid mystery with vivid characters, believable human dramas and struggle without losing any entertainment value.

The story begins when the body of an unknown old man was discovered in a Tokyo railway station, the victim's face was so ba
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, crime-mystery
Excellent, smart, intricately constructed, seamlessly translated, police procedural, by the dean of postwar Japanese mystery writers.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-red-circle
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'."
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Finally finished this one. Not a book I could read straight off! In fact, I think I paused after each 3 or 4 chapters and left it for awhile. It's hard work. Not only the surnames and groupings, but also within the context of Japanese mores and myriads of locations during the latest years of the 1950's. Quite a different Japan from today completely across the boards, and one that has a rather unique detective/ Homicide Dept approach, as well.

If given a chance to give a star rating at the 1/2 wa
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction, japanese
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
The original title of this novel should be 'The Vessel of Sand', I didn't know that it was renamed 'Inspector Imanishi Investigates' when the book was translated into English.


The English version of this story is much difficult to read because the text contents so many names for locations, towns and train lines. But I'm still deeply impressed by how Mr. Matsumoto managed to capture the outlook of the Japanese society in the 1960s and the details of these characters' lives.
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable. Great characters and an interesting puzzle to solve. If it were being written today, this would undoubtedly be the first of many installments, but in 1961 you could write a one-off.
Madhulika Liddle
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the wee hours of a Tokyo morning, well before dawn, a dead body is found under a stationary train, its face bashed so badly as to prevent all identification. The Homicide Division of Tokyo Metropolitan Police is put on the case, and a clue surfaces: an old man, overheard talking in a distinctive accent to a young man. Inspector Imanishi leaves his beloved bonsai and his haiku and goes off by train with his young colleague, Yoshimura, to investigate—and runs up against a blank wall. Two months ...more
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've never read a Japanese mystery novel before and within the first few pages, I knew I will want to read more. I'm not sure this Inspector Imanishi has a series, or if many books are translated, but I wish I could read more. I especially enjoy the insight of Imanishi's relationship with his wife and his sister, the little rituals of his eating, his smoking on his stomach, his going to the public baths. Etc. I think this is one two main reasons why I read any mystery series, to be invited to ho ...more
Masanaka Takashima
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok

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
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Old fashioned police procedural with a side of sushi. This is one of Soho Press's fine series of international crime fiction. "Inspector Imaninishi" was published in Japan in the late 50's and has a nifty post-war noirish sensibility. The protagonist is an aging police detective who writes haiku for relaxation. The plot is engaging and Matsumoto is more gifted at portraying relationships and character than many of his better known contemporaries. Plenty of red herrings and and blind alleys to co ...more
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was picked up because I didn't have a book to read and it ended up sucking me in completely. From the depth of the characters, the twists and turns of the plot, and the stunning descriptions of Japanese landscapes and culture made this book a joy to read. Intriguing to the last, if you like noir type murder mysteries with a fantastic cast of characters, then READ IT. It opened my eyes to Japanese crime novels and I fear I may be hooked.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
A carefully-plotted mystery, one solitary and thoughtful male detective (makes me think of a more melancholy Martin Beck), and detailed descriptions of the contradictions of postwar Japanese society ... turns out when these things are combined, it makes for a very interesting book. A slow-moving mystery that takes its time to build up the case.
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, asian
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
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun
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
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a well-written, interesting, and truly puzzling police procedural that reminds me of the early Dragnet, but set in early 1960s Japan.

The body of an older man is found on railroad tracks. He has been drugged, strangled, and beaten. No one has any idea who he is or where he is from. The only clues are from a cheap bar where the victim and a mysterious younger man were seen. The victim spoke with an accent from northeastern Japan, and made the comment, "Kameda must the same even now." Who
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Ram Kaushik
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This is an enjoyable mystery authentically set in 1960's Japan. The plotting is intricate and the reader is drawn into the chase along with the diligent Inspector. The Inspector painstakingly pieces the story together through many trips to different locales in Japan, as he tightens the web gradually to trap the murderer. Must have been even more enjoyable in the original language but the translated version is great in itself!
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a lot of fun to read because of the locations and the apologetic and humble Japanese way of speaking. Being able to speak Japanese made this an especially enjoyable book for me for nostalgic purposes. The story was also refreshing and not very linear .. overall, very good.
This book has a lot of issues but managed to hold my interest despite dancing dangerously close to a dnf early on.

First off, let me say the kindle edition is full of errors that are obviously due to a print or PDF version of the book being run through optical character recognition software to be converted to ebook. Given that a simple spell check would have turned up almost all of the problems I noticed, it's clear that the publisher made absolutely no effort to produce a quality product and sho
Marina Kahn
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the bargain mystery novels I acquired from the symphony book sale this year. Written in 1961 by Seicho Matsumoto it a police procedural so it is not fast paced instead it follows the police inspectors through their methodical search for clues, witness interviews and research; some of these clues and leads are dead ends some of the information provides hunches but nothing to hang a murder on. Very interesting read because it gave a time capsule of what Japan society was going throu ...more
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very nice read. I appreciate the cool, sober and matter-of-fact narration, and yet have the intensity of a crime novel.
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
From the 1950s onwards, Seicho Matsumoto revolutionised Japanese crime fiction, adding a gritty realism and psychological depth that had previously been absent. Sadly, only a limited number of his works are available in English, but those few that are represent a sampling of his prodigious talent.

"Inspector Imanishi Investigates" centres around an unsolved murder in a Tokyo railyard, and the apparently incongruous links between a dead policeman-turned-shopkeeper in rural Japan and the bright yo
John Owen
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this to get a different perspective and some insight into Japanese life. There were bits here and there that were useful in that regard. Some of the details of the Inspector's persistence were interesting but a lot of this was tedious detailed information about train schedules.

Inspector Imanishi Investigates was clearly a mixed bag.
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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 nihil