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Inspector Imanishi Investigates

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  861 Ratings  ·  125 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
ebook, 313 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Crime (first published 1961)
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Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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'."
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Иван Величков
Сейчо Матсумото е един от най-известните писатели и популяризатори на криминалния жанр в Япония през шейсетте години на миналия век. Написал над 450 произведения, редица от тях филмирани и преведени на много езици. „Пясъчният замък“ (Суна но утсува) – оригиналното заглавие, подхождащо много повече на романа от комерсиалния превод „Инспектор Иманаши разследва“ – е смятан за един от върховете в писателската му кариера.
Пълнокръвните герои от различни възрасти и социални прослойки и многообразните л
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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
Masanaka Takashima
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Madhulika Liddle
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ram Kaushik
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Owen
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.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
James Eckman
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: Patrick Sherriff
Shelves: fiction
Since it's set in the early 60's I would call this a tea room(kissaten) mystery. It's not a hard-boiled detective novel in any sense of the word, the Inspector doesn't carry a gun and the roughest on-page violence is grabbing a suspect. Imanishi, who leads a life of constant overwork with a fierce dedication to his job (OK, a touch of hard-boiled), is called in on a brutal murder and the investigation goes into overtime. Bouncing from investigation to coincidence and back, intermixed with interv ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 24, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A murder investigation that is an exciting read with not one paragraph unrelated to the investigation, absolutely no unnecessary digressions at all. You travel with Imanishi throughout, that by the end of it you feel like you were him.
The investigation itself is for a murder that looks like a dead-end from the beginning, but Imanishi's infectious persistence and obsession takes us through a plot that unravels slowly but surely. The way new clues open up, the way many of those seem to lead Imani
Alison Hardtmann
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
This is an old school police procedural set in Japan. Written by Seicho Matsumoto in the early sixties, it's a peek into Japan, a generation ago. In a structured society, still recovering from the aftermath of WWII, Imanishi hunts for the killer of a man found murdered at a rail yard in Tokyo. The investigation takes time, with information requested by letter and with Imanishi following though with every elusive lead.

This book reminded me of the Martin Beck series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowell,
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great crime novel with a lot of mysteries which have to be solved one by one to get to the murderer. From a western perspective it is full of Japanese idiosyncrasies such as the importance not to annoy anyone. Also the commitment of the inspector to his job and the task is very admirable. The novel doesn't have much action and the character descriptions are superficial, but I liked the pace of the story.
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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
More about Seicho Matsumoto...