A Classic Japanese Mystery Now Available in English

Originally published in Japan in 1946, The Honjin Murders was first translated into English last year and is now available in the United States.

Kenzo Ichiyanagi and Katsuko Kubo, despite opposition from Kenzo’s family, become engaged, and though the wedding is a small affair, the small town is excited by the nuptials. By the time the couple serves the members of the community and completes the saki ceremony, it is after 2:00 a.m.

Within three hours, the guests and residents of the Ichiyanagi home hear koto music and screams from the annex, where the couple had retired. The annex is locked, the shutters closed, and no footprints lead away from the building. When the family is finally able to enter, they find two dead bodies awash in blood.

The narrator, a mystery writer, delights in presenting the locked room mystery. The first few chapters are explosion around the characters and property, important details, but not as interesting as the introduction of quirky Kosuke Kindaichi, a young private detective educated in United States with the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Seishi Yokomizo, a prolific writer who loved reading mystery novels, completed seventy-seven Kosuke Kindaichi works along with other books. The Honjin Murders won the first Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1948.

I love reading mystery novels from other countries, and while The Honjin Murders has similarities in structure to Agatha Christie’s books, I enjoyed it not only because of the dastardly plan devised by the killer but also because of the plethora of Japanese cultural and social norms depicted.

I recommend The Honjin Murders for fans of classic mystery novels as well as those who are interested in reading non-Western mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for providing an electronic reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: LONG BRIGHT RIVER, perfection

Mickey Fitzpatrick joined the Philadelphia PD after high school while her younger sister, Kacey, an addict and prostitute, left home for the streets of Kensington, a neighborhood ravaged by the opioid epidemic.

Mickey responds to a what was supposed to be a death by overdose, but she notices signs of foul play. The young woman isn’t the first victim: her murder initiates a string of homicides in Kensington targeting vulnerable, addicted working women. At the same time, she learned that Kacey was missing.

With her partner, Truman, who is on medical leave, Mickey begins an off-the-books investigation to locate Kacey and find the murderer. Her queries take her into an underworld that threatens not just her and Truman but also her son.

Mickey narrates the present-day mystery while revealing how the once inseparable bond she shared with Kacey slowly disintegrated. Long Bright River by Liz Moore isn’t simply a mystery novel, though. It’s a meditation on place and family and how circumstances can limit choices. It’s a revelatory lament for those in the throes of addiction. And, it is a message about the importance of love and forgiveness.

To me, the writing was so beautiful, at times I had to stop to simply savor the language. Mickey was such an interesting narrator—so intelligent, so damaged, so unemotional. This was one of those books I wasn’t ready to finish.