The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo


If there’s anything I love better than chocolate it’s a deliciously atmospheric crime/mystery novel. So, it is with great anticipation that I began reading The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo. To add to my excitement the locked room mystery came with a heritage. Originally published in 1946, it is the first book in the renowned series of Japanese detective stories by Yokomizo.

The Honjin Murders turned out to be quite a page turner, and I finished it in two days. With books like these it’s the journey that matters and not the destination. In other words, although I had an idea of who the murderer would be it didn’t dampen my reading pleasure. The elaborate setting, the details of family history, quirky characters, and the mere fact that this was a historical Japanese crime novel (you don’t get too many of those!) made it a really wonderful read.

Clearly, Yokomizo relishes in building layers and nuanced details as we can see from the descriptions of each of the important characters. The honjin, an inn for the well-heeled, where the story is set is also like a dynamic character, interacting with its residents and visitors in different ways. Weaving all these elements with much dexterity, Yokomizo constructs a really engaging whodunnit following in the footsteps of other famous writers like Gaston Leroux and Arthur Conan Doyle, a fact that the omniscient narrator acknowledges right at the beginning.

Yokomizo creates his own equivalent of a Sherlock or a Poirot too in the young and eccentric detective Kosuke Kindaichi. While the first half of the novel is dedicated to pulling apart the situation and surmising from various characters, the second half moves faster with Kindaichi appearing on the scene. He goes around collecting apparently unrelated titbits of information that leaves everyone around him, including the police officers, puzzled until it all comes together in a wonderful whole. I found the explanation slightly complicated but once I had figured out everything I needed to know about a koto it was better.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Honjin Murders and it wouldn’t have been possible without the superb translation from Louise Heal Kawai. I am waiting to read the next Kindaichi mystery soon!

A big thank you to Pushkin Press for sending me this ARC for an honest review.

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