The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai

Summary:

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?

My Review:

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.

192 Pages.

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

Three-Fifths by John Vercher

Three-Fifths by John Vercher

Summary:

Set against the backdrop of the simmering racial tension produced by the LA Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial, comes this powerful hardboiled noir of violence and obsession

Pittsburgh, 1995. Twenty-two-year-old Bobby Saraceno is a biracial black man, passing for white. Bobby has hidden his identity from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who just returned from prison a newly radicalized white supremacist.

During the night of their reunion, Bobby witnesses Aaron mercilessly assault a young black man with a brick. In the wake of this horrifying act of violence, Bobby must conceal his unwitting involvement in the crime from the police, as well as battle his own personal demons.

Three-Fifths is a harrowing story about racism and brutality that is more urgent now than ever.

My Review:

A powerful and also moving debut novel by John Vercher, Three Fifths (Pushkin Vertigo) is set in 1995 and I have to say it was a book that I could not put down and found myself waking up in the early hours just to carry on reading this compelling novel.

The Story set in Pittsburgh begins with Bobby Saraceno who is a young biracial black man, who tells everyone he is white but does not tell anyone that his father was black and he never got to know his mother who was white but clearly had her problems. Bobby his is true identity from everyone. His closest friend Aaron has just been released from a three-year term in prison and they meet up but there is something about Aaron that has changed. Being inside has changed him, something clearly effected Aaron as he has become radicalized and a white supremacist.

Tensions are running high as the backdrop is set against the O.J. Simpson trial and the riots in LA. It is late in the evening and the pair are involved in a crime and this is where Bobby sees Aaron assault a young black man, leaving him fighting for his life.

Bobby is clearly fearing for his own safety and if caught he knows he will go to prison for a number of years. If this was not difficult enough he knows his friend still does not know his true identity and what then if he finds out, and then when Bobby’s father suddenly appears after many years, this is where he not only has to come to terms with his past and his true self but this will also collide with the very present day and the dangers this will bring. This is a powerful narrative that John Vercher has written in Three-Fifths and is a story that involves many themes that include race, identity, friendship, racism, family.

John Vercher has manged to write a debut that is masterful and also timely. I felt I wanted to learn about the characters as the story went on you become involved with the characters. A novel that cries out to be read. John Vercher is a new writer to watch.

@jverch75 @PushkinPress

248 Pages.

Thank you Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of Three Fifths by John Vercher.

Three Fifths by John Vercher was published by Pushkin Pressand was published on 1st October 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