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.

Book Review: THE GOD GAME – morality and A.I.

𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙫𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙙!
𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙂.𝙊.𝘿.
𝘽𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙛𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙨!
𝙄𝙩’𝙨 𝙛𝙪𝙣!
𝘽𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙪𝙡𝙚𝙨. 𝙒𝙞𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘼𝙇𝙇 𝙔𝙊𝙐𝙍 𝘿𝙍𝙀𝘼𝙈𝙎 𝘾𝙊𝙈𝙀 𝙏𝙍𝙐𝙀.™
𝙇𝙤𝙨𝙚, 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙙𝙞𝙚!

Happy Publication Day to The God Game!

Charlie, founder of the Vindicators, a group of misfit teens at an Austin, Texas high school, receives an invitation to play the God Game. Spiraling downward since his mother died a year ago, he has nothing to lose by accepting, and his friends, the Vindicators, Peter, Vahni, Kenny, and Alex join as well.

Playing through their cell phones, the game overlays the real world with fantastic imagery, adding details like hanging vines in the school halls. When they play against imaginary beasts only to gain Goldz in the game which they can exchange for advantages, the God Game seems harmless.

But soon, it intrudes on the real world. They are asked to make illicit deliveries, perform errands, and complete tasks, after which they receive more Goldz and rewards like an ATM that dispenses cash freely. When they go against the game, however, they receive Blaxx, and the punishment might be more than they’ve bargained for—how much further will Charlie fall before he can get himself and his friends out of the game… if they game will even let them leave.

With short chapters and lots of action, The God Game by Danny Tobey is a quick and exciting read. Though the characters, who, if not always likeable, are interesting, are playing an AI game, the technology is subordinated to questions of morality. Before the Vindicators began playing the game, they each had secrets they considered shameful. The game further isolated them by requiring them to engage in behavior that ordinarily would be against their ethics. The pleasure of the book is both in the fascination of the game’s context and watching the characters handle the increasingly demanding and dangerous game while losing trust in each other.

At times, I thought Tobey shifted between points of view too quickly, without enough transition, and I was left with questions—such as how could so many people be playing an underground game. The book, though, was very entertaining, and I thought Tobey nailed the ending. The God Game is not just for readers who like books such as Ready Player One and Slay but also those who want to explore the impact of technology on morality or who just like a fast-paced, fun story.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advance reading copy!

Book Review: THE NEW WINE RULES – A GENUINELY HELPFUL GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

🍷”𝙳𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚓𝚘𝚢.”🍷

My husband works as a winemaker, and I’ve learned so much from him about viniculture and winemaking. I’m still such a novice when it comes to everything else wine-related, and at times, I find it intimidating.

Perfect for me, The New Wine Rules by Jon Bonné begins with the premise that drinking wine is a joyful activity and over time, a cadre of experts has diminished that joyfulness by creating an unnecessary mystique around wine tasting. Bonné argues that following a few principles—the new wine rules—will give everyone the knowledge he or she needs to select and enjoy wine.

Each rule is accompanied with a brief one to two page easy-to-understand explanation, and the book is gorgeously illustrated. Bonné explains the (un)importance of price, why red and white wine glasses differ, how to make good food-wine pairings, and more.

I recommend The New Wine Rules both for wine novices as well as experienced wine drinkers who want exposure to a new paradigm of thinking about wine.

If you are a wine drinker, what’s your favorite wine?

Book Review: NINE ELMS, promising series debut

ultralight_adjustmentsIn 1995, Kate Marshall, just promoted to Detective Constable, was assigned to the Nine Elms Cannibal case. A deraigned murderer abducted young women, strangled them with a cord tied with a distinct monkey’s fist knot, and took bites from their thighs, buttocks, and backs. On the night the fourth victim was discovered, Kate connected the clues and unmasked the killer, but in the process was brutally attacked. In the aftermath, Kate was embroiled in a scandal, was forced to leave the Met Police.

Fifteen years later, Kate, a recovering alcoholic, was finding some peace as a lecturer at a small seaside university where her class was always in demand. Her ordered existence, however, was upended when the local forensic pathologist asked her to consult on a case. The young girl’s body had a cord tied with a monkey’s knot and bites were taken from her backside. A copycat was at work.

With her research assistant Tristan Harper, an insightful ally with a sullied past, Kate becomes caught up in the investigation—but she doesn’t realize that the copycat is determined to succeed where the Nine Elms Cannibal failed and make sure Kate doesn’t survive this time.

An entertaining introduction to a new series, Nine Elms has great and disturbing characters, interesting settings rendered in detail (for example, a psychiatric hospital), and poignant moments. However, some aspects of the plot didn’t quite ring true, and some situations seemed resolved too easily (such as a political conflict at the university), and I though the writing was a bit choppy at times. Still, I was very captivated by Kate and Tristan. Their partnership shows lots of promise for future stories, and I and look forward to the second Kate Marshall book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.