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The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

(御手洗潔 #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,967 ratings  ·  531 reviews
“Intricately constructed and entertainingly exotic.”—The Japan Times

Astrologer, fortuneteller, and self-styled detective Kiyoshi Mitarai must in one week solve a mystery that has baffled Japan for 40 years. Who murdered the artist Umezawa, raped and killed his daughter, and then chopped up the bodies of six others to create Azoth, the supreme woman? With maps, charts, and
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by IBC Books (first published December 1st 1981)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”My name’s Kazumi Ishioka. I’m a huge fan of mysteries; in fact, they’re almost an addiction. If a week goes by without reading a mystery, I suffer withdrawal symptoms. Then I wander around like I’m sleepwalking and wake up in a bookshop, looking for a mystery novel. I’ve read just about every mystery story ever written….

But of all the mysteries I’ve read, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was, without a doubt, the most intriguing.”

Kazumi is not only obsessed with mystery novels, but he is also obsessed
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a unique and intriguing murder mystery set in the same vein as a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The master coaching the assistant through the clues while never totally revealing his decisive analysis until the end. The genre belongs to the Japanese ‘honkaku’ subgenre which focuses on plotting and clues. As a whodunit puzzle, it is a very well structured plot, with a locked room scenario questioning how a killer committed a murder and then escaped from a room locked
mark monday
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada was born under the Sun Sign Aries in 1981; its original name is Senseijutsu Satsujinjiken, which can be roughly translated as "Zodiac Murder Magic". Those born Aries are Cardinal signs whose element is Fire; they are ruled by Mars. The color of Aries is RED.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, and its Cardinal quality further signals a beginning, the start of something innovative and new. And such is Tokyo Zodiac Murders, or at least it was in 1981:
Sam Quixote
Pre-war Japan. A deranged artist called Heikichi Umezawa claims to be possessed by the Devil. He plans one final masterwork: the creation of Azoth, the supreme woman. How to make her? Chop up the bodies of his six daughters, selecting their most perfect parts, and stitching the pieces together into a whole.

But before he can begin, he’s brutally murdered. A few days later the six daughters are also killed and their bodies chopped up, per Umezawa’s plan. Who killed Umezawa? Who killed the six
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is being released under the new ‘Pushkin Vertigo’ imprint – which aims to re-release international crime classics written in the years between the 1920’s and 1970’s. “The Tokyo Zodiac Murders,” is the first of over two dozen novels featuring Kiyoshi Mitarai and is written in the popular Japanese Honkaku subgenre of mysteries; very much focused on plotting and clues and where the reader is drawn into participating in solving the crime before the detective.

In some ways, this book
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The author Soji Shimada, has been known to readers as The King Of Dismemberment in the realm of Japanese crime/detective novels, it is his first long detective novel and it is damn impressive (the story has its flaws, but I'm still impressed).

I look forward to re-read this book some day.
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is my second novel where the author challenge readers explicitly to guess the culprit. The first one is The Egyptian Cross Mystery. And coincidentally this novel is my first Soji Shimada's novel that I've ever read. After read this novel, I wish there are other Soji Shimada's novel translated into English.

Highly recommended for readers who want to guess the culprit. Although I found some minor clues seems useful if the reader knows pop-culture of Japanese at mid 1930 era, but the essence of
I am reading this for "Locked Room Mystery": The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada. This apparently is a locked room mystery novel that has been getting rave reviews.

Wow all I have to say is that this book was great. More than anything I love clever books like this, and this was definitely very clever. I honestly was a bit worried for a couple of minutes that maybe I wouldn't be able to get the book since the setting is in Japan. But wow the author Soji Shimada is able to pretty much show
When Raymond Chandler wrote his somewhat disparaging essay on mystery novels, perhaps he hadn't been exposed to works by writers such as Shimada.

For the ingenuity, meta jabs and the evocation of a bygone era where 'crime solving' was not all CSI and procedurals, 5 stars. It's just absolutely riveting and this must fall under Poirot's favourite kind of case, one that's primarily concerned with imagination and analysis, for all the fresh clues had been set in print articles, unavailable for
Nancy Oakes
Oh my! This is probably the best mystery novel I've read all year -- it is the kind of book that I hope to find every time I pick up a new mystery. I do have to admit to a fondness for Japanese authors, especially mystery writers, and this particular book is an example of why. I have to find other works by this author in translation if they exist. I could NOT put this book down at all once I started.

The story begins some time back in the 1930s, and its focal point is a bizarre case known as the
Aug 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
Practically unreadable - the first part is a sick piece of murderous misogyny, the rest - a too-long conversation between two people trying to solve a closed-room murder mystery 40 years after the fact, by meticulously dismantling inch after inch of the technical details of the murder. This you cannot possibly follow unless you have a phenomenal memory and an unlikely level of tolerance for boredom. Sorry, quitting now, before it's too late and I drown in an ocean of mind-numbing technicalities.
aPriL does feral sometimes
Quoted from ‘The Tokyo Zodiac Murders’:


To the best of my knowledge, the case of the serial murders which took place in Japan in 1936 - popularly known as ““The Tokyo Zodiac Murders”” - is one of the most peculiar and most elusive mysteries in the history of crime....

....Readers may like to attempt to unravel the puzzle themselves, just as we - my good friend Kiyoshi Mitarai and I - set out to do on that fateful day in the spring of 1979.

I can assure you that I have included all the
Widyanto Gunadi
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is an unsettlingly grotesque, astutely constructed, crepuscular detective fiction debut coming out from Japan. Soji Shimada, the author who will later be well-known as one of the masters of mystery novels in East Asia, officially began his writing career since the publication of this work. With this novel, Shimada-san has managed to fortuitously undertake his flair for a straightforward, yet puzzling storytelling technique which was aimed to perpetually put up the ...more
Jessica Woodbury
2.5 stars. At one point in this novel, the author adds a note saying, "Hey, you have all the clues now, so stop reading and solve the mystery! Have fun bbs!" And sorry bro but no thanks. By this point the book has thrown so many piles of information at you that it's hard to keep any of it straight. And while there are parts of the solution that are quite strong and make sense, there are parts where you think, "Well how could I have possibly figured that part out?" This is par for the course for ...more
If you can make it through the exceedingly dry first third of this puzzler, the rest of this book is a real treat. I did figure "who dunnit" and more or less how before the big reveal but that did not in any way lessen my pleasure in this clever mystery. Bonus points for setting the much of the latter two-thirds of the book in picturesque Kyoto. Recommended for those who like old-fashioned locked room mysteries.
Karrie Stewart
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've ever read where the author actually tells you all the clues are out there, and challenges you to solve the mystery. I was not able to figure it out but looking back, I can see where you would be able to. I'm hoping Mr. Shimada has had more of his "locked room" mysteries translated. I want to try and solve another!
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how the author actually challenge the readers to find the killer. It was very uncertain, unknown suspects and complicated case--not just one, but three different venue and style. That whiny and impatient Kazumi and seriously too secretive Kiyoshi embarking on a journey to find the culprit just because of a letter by the late Bunjiro Takegoshi.

A very exceptional mystery--who and how until the last chapter making me so nervous and as impatient as Kazumi. It was odd at some points but
The blurb on the landing page for this book states: “Intricately constructed and entertainingly exotic.”—The Japan Times

I say “intricately constructed – no kidding!” Another book that I would certainly not have read had it not been the pick of one of my favorite groups, The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group whose category for the May read was Japanese mysteries. I thought, what the heck, since it was available immediately from my library. Thank goodness I got it right away because it took me
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime-mystery, japan
Ranked #3 in the 2012 Tozai Mystery List (, this book is extremely popular in Japan. It is a locked-room mystery (in part) and a logic-puzzlemwhere ALL the clues are given to the reader in advance. I found it rather dry and not terribly interesting.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly constructed fair-play puzzle mystery, with two armchair detectives solving a set of murders from 40 years before. I never saw the clever ending coming. The only turn-off for me was the level of gore, but the violence took place off stage.
The story starts in 1936 Japan. Heikichi Umezawa is an artist who is literally surrounded by women. He lives with his second wife Masako, two of her daughters (Akiko and Tomoko), his daughter by his first wife (Tokiko), his daughter by Masako (Yukiko), and his two nieces, Reiko and Nobuyo. Masako's other daughter, Kazue, who is divorced, lives on her own. None of them realizes just how deranged Heikichi has become. He fantasizes about creating the perfect women, Azoth - with the bodies of his ...more
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is impressive, considering it was first published in 1987 and is still enjoyable to read after more than 20 years has passed. At first I thought this is a murder/thriller story, but apparently it's more a murder-mystery, and it gives me more curiosity than thrill.

Apart from the terrific storyline, I find the abundance of facts stated in the story is kind of annoying, but I understand that it is necessary for the readers to have enough (well, maybe too much) information to be able to
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to say that I was not a fan of crime fiction - that has changed. I now want to read as much crime fiction as I can.

This is a highly enjoyable read with a well-done plot, although the style was a bit weird probably because the book was written a long time ago. Some online reviews I read complained that they read the manga Kindaichi before this book and was spoiled because both shared a highly similar plot. If I am not wrong, this book actually came out long before Kindaichi. Fortunately,
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I'm pretty close to dropping this to two stars, but I suppose it's successful in its genre. Trouble is, I need a plot, description, characterization. . . . not just a logic puzzle. The early chapters are very dry and consist largely of dialogue between Kiyoshi and Kazumi. I did get more engaged by about halfway through, but with the lack of character development, there was no one I really cared about. I didn't care who the murderer was and didn't care whether I figured it out.
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't to sire of this when I started it because it seemed to real but I'm glad I stuck with it. It took me awhile to figure out who the killer was.
LG (A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions)
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honkaku is a subgenre of Japanese Crime Fiction that came into being sometime in the early 1920's. The original definition was "a detective story that mainly focuses on the process of a criminal investigation and values the entertainment derived from pure logical reasoning". The term was coined to clearly differentiate Honkaku mystery fiction from other subgenres and it was used for both local and Western writers, although a distinct Japanese form became increasingly common in the 1950's.

Aya Prita
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone that fancy gore and mystery
Recommended to Aya by: Prabowo Adi
Little Aya story: I met this book because a little convo that I had from my senior, Prabowo Adi. He reads books a lot and his reading preference mesmerized me. So, I was like, "may I borrow one of your books? Anything. Just surprise me". Then boom, he came with this one. I was expected an English book, but when I saw the cover I was like "okay, wicked" (YOU HAVE TO SEE THE BAHASA COVER OF THIS BOOK #coverbuybooks lol). So I started at September 17 and finished at October 5. Almost three ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
It was really charming. Not only the mystery but the detective itself. I'm a fan of suspense novel but not detective novel. And officially this novel is the first detective novel I've ever finished. It tells about the death of a loner artist, and six women from his family (his four daughters and two nieces).

The story starts with the last will of an artist named Heikichi Umezawa. In his last will he wrote about his obsession of creating a perfect woman. There, in his last will, he explained that
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was kinda surprised because I almost cried in sadness when reading the last pages...

Anyway, Detective Mitarai officially becomes one of my favorite characters :D Eccentric, almost crazy, yet intelligent at the very same time. Simply my type :p The way the stories are told are very intriguing, with Ishioka who's kinda like Watson and Mitarai the Holmes (regardless to what he feels about the legendary detective @_@)

All the time this book gives me haunted feeling (the reason is simple, I'm a
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“The deeper the pain you have, the more you hide it. I am sure I am not the only one who has suffered. The bitter truth is often covered with fake smiles.” 27 likes
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