Three mysteries, detective stories all set in Japan. From three different time periods too, which makes interesting reading.
The Devil’s Flute Murders by Seishi Yokomizo
This was a very different story, set in 1947, post war Japan. Viscount Tsubaki, a brooding composer, has died and his family is in mourning. His daughter thinks there’s something odd about the death and contacts Kosuke Kindaichi, a private investigator for help. When he comes to their house, the family has decided to gather for divination, to conjure the spirit of the dead Viscount. The sound of flute is heard, and another death.
This was again a very different mystery, a musical one in a way. The owner of the flute is dead and yet it keeps playing music. And when it does, someone dies. Who plays it and why? Kindaichi has to investigate the family and travel to other locations to search for the secrets. While the time and culture described in the book are obviously very different, the people are still people, wanting to protect themselves, their family, and keep their secrets hidden, well-hidden indeed.
I’ve read the previous Kindaichi stories which have been translated to English, starting with Honjin Murders, which was a locked screen mystery. Second was The Inugami Curse, about murders in a wealthy family after reading a will. Third one, The Village of Eight Graves, set in a small village with a terrible curse. Fourth book Death on Gokumon Island, a small island with fisherman and former pirates. I’ve liked them all and can highly recommend all of them. They are very different, the first 3 are before the war, the other two after the war.
Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto
This one is set in Tokyo in the 1960s. A body is found under the train, and the face is so badly damaged, the police can’t figure out who the victim was. Inspector Imanishi is called to investigate the death. He spends a lot of time questioning people and draws empty, until there are just a few coincidences too many.
My review: Slow moving to start, a lot of pondering. But the Inspector keeps investigating, checks things multiple times as he doesn’t have much to go on. The descriptions of Tokyo music and arts scene, and his travels by train, interviewing people in distant villages. Unreliable witnesses. A very twisted case starts to unravel and the resolution I didn’t see coming.
A death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino
This one is set in modern time, 2020 Tokyo. A seemingly drunk man staggers on Nihonbashi bridge late at night and collapses under a statue of a mythical beast known as Kirin. Except, he wasn’t drunk, he had a knife stuck in his chest. A city police saw the man staggering and collapsing, goes to investigate and sees the knife. He reports the issue to the Tokyo police. Another person dies, while attempting to flee from the police. He’s found to have the wallet of the stab victim in his pocket. Case closed? No, the detective Kaga thinks there’s more to it and gets on to investigate what actually happened on the bridge.
My review: Again, a different police investigation in Japan. This one has a bit of a western crime novel feel to it. Inspector Kaga wasn’t really supposed to investigate, his superiors don’t like him. They want the case closed quickly, as the guy was found with the dead man’s wallet. No other suspects, so why keep digging? The media in Tokio gets involved as well, the press can judge and haunt before everything is known. But Kaga thinks there’s more to it than that and keeps at it. There are loads of twists and turns, family secrets too.