The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo
Translated by Louise Heal Kawai
In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village.
Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house.
Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?
First published in April 1946 The Honjin Murders was the first of a series to feature the amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi who went on to feature in 77 books, with many going on to become film and TV adaptations in Japan. Until now it has never been translated into English.
Set in 1937 and in the village of Okamura as there is going to be a wedding. There is a real buzz and anticipation as this marriage involves Kenzo Ichiyanagi the son of one of the most prominent and wealthiest of families in the region. Kenzo met Katsuko a schoolteacher, there love of books soon turned into romance.
But death is stalking the newlyweds as that evening there is a terrible scream and followed by what sounds like strange music. Family members rush to see what the scream was about but cannot wake or get access to the home of the newlyweds. It is Katsuko’s uncle that breaks into the property and is faced with a shocking scene, both Kenzo and his bride lay dead covered in blood. Who could do such a thing just hours after the wedding. But that is not all. Outside thrust into the snow is a samurai sword covered with blood. Murder has come to the village.
But something does not fit, there is no sign of a break-in and the house was locked, who could have murdered the bride and groom and leave no trace of entrance or exit.
With the police on the scene looking for clues as to who may have committed the double murder, then a family member believes amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi could be of real help is solving the crime.
Kosuke goes about his work in a somewhat different way to the usual police methods and his demeanour may not appeal to everyone but Kosuke could just be the man to solve the mystery of who killed Kenzo and Katsuko.
I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this Japanese mystery and the translation was superb by Louise Heal Kawai. This reads like a good old fashioned murder mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie will really enjoy The Honjin Murders and how Seisho Yokomizo crafted the storyline keeping the reader guessing with a number of red herrings to throw the reader of course just when you think you have nailed who killed the newlyweds. A short murder mystery under 200 pages but with interesting characters adding to the plot. I can really recommend for a winter read by the fire.
My thanks to Poppy Stimpson & Pushkin Vertigo for the review copy of The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo.
The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo was published by Pushkin Vertigo and will be published on 3rd December 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org