#987: Death on Gokumon Island (1948) by Seishi Yokomizo [trans. Louise Heal Kawai 2022]

Death on Gokumon Island

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“I don’t want to die. I… I… don’t want to die. I have to get home. My three sisters will be murdered. But… but… I’m done for. Kindaichi-san, please… please go to Gokumon Island in my place…” — thus is Kosuke Kindaichi exhorted by a dying brother in arms as they are demobilised after the end of the Second World War. And so the detective goes to Gokumon Island, meets Chimata Kito’s family, and tries to untangle the maelstrom of violence and confusion that descends upon the island as, sure enough, Chimata’s three sisters Tsukiyo, Yukie, and Hanako are killed one by one. In principle it’s a gripping idea, but in practice it made for me the least interesting of the four Seishi Yokomizo mysteries thus far translated.

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#876: The Village of Eight Graves (1951) by Seishi Yokomizo [trans. Bryan Karetnyk 2021]

Village of Eight Graves

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If ever you come back, there will be blood! Blood!  So runs the anonymous note melodramatically warning 29 year-old Tatsuya Terada against returning to the isolated Village of Eight Graves, out of which he was smuggled as a toddler.  However, it seems that he is the heir to the Tajimi family fortune, which in turn links him inextricably to the terrible violence that traumatised the village 26 years ago, and give many cause to see him as a bird of ill omen.  Sure enough, upon his arrival at his wealthy family’s vast estate, people start to die.  Quite a lot of people.  People who were very much alive before Tatsuya Tajimi showed up.

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#746: The Inugami Curse, a.k.a. The Inugami Clan (1951) by Seishi Yokomizo [trans. Yumiko Yamazaki 2003]

Inugami Curse, The

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When a wealthy businessman bestows his fortune upon a lowly member of his household to the chagrin of his rapacious offspring, you can bet your bottom dollar that some heads are going to (sometimes literally) roll. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) might be the only time this setup hasn’t resulted in a bloodbath, but The Inugami Curse (1951) by Seishi Yokomizo is from further up the scale. Old sins and their long shadows will get a good airing as stabbings, poisonings, decapitations, stranglings, and even some homicidal wordplay get a murderous field trip to remember. It is, to say the very least, memorable.

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In GAD We Trust – Episode 9: Japanese-English Translation + The Honjin Murders (1946) by Seishi Yokomizo [w’ Louise Heal Kawai]

In GAD We Trust

A seam of superb Japanese detective novels and short stories have crossed the language barrier in recent years, teaching even the most culturally ignorant of us to tell our honkaku from our shin honkaku.  And here to give us a sense of the work involved in making that happen is literary translator Louise Heal Kawai.

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#632: The Honjin Murders (1946) by Seishi Yokomizo [trans. Louise Heal Kawai 2019]

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After years of occasional titles like The Tattoo Murder Case (1948) by Akimitsu Takagi trickling through the East-West translation gap, it seems English-speaking audiences might be getting more classic Eastern honkaku.  The shin honkaku translations brought to us by Locked Room International have highlighted the ingenuity in works coming out of Japan, China, and surrounds during the 1980s and 1990s, an era when the Western crime novel was rather more focussed on character and procedure, and so the puzzle-rich seam of GAD-era honkaku titles might finally get more attention.  And the first non-LRI novel to come across is one that was greeted with much excitement.

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