“By the author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders – a fiendish Japanese locked room mystery
The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff at the remote northern tip of Japan. A curious place to build a house, but even more curious is the house itself – a maze of sloping floors and strange staircases, full of bloodcurdling masks and uncanny dolls. When a guest is found murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to solve the puzzle, and more bizarre deaths follow.
Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the renowned sleuth. Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders it is him. But you have all the clues too – can you solve the mystery of the murders in The Crooked House first?”
Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada. Murder in the Crooked House was written by Soji Shimada and published in Japanese in 1982. It has since been updated and this translation by Louise Heal Kawai into English was published earlier this year by Pushkin Vertigo. I received a free eARC of Murder in the Crooked House but this has in no way influenced my review.
I have a bit of a thing for Japanese crime fiction. There are two standout novels which I always recommend to people. One of these is The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which is also by Soji Shimada (and also published in English by Pushkin Vertigo). I LOVED The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which was also Shimada’s debut. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw Murder in the Crooked House, another locked room mystery, was available on NetGalley. This was a must-read for me. So much so, I added it to my #15BooksofSummer list to make sure I got it read sooner rather than later.
I wanted so desperately to love this novel as much as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. I certainly enjoyed parts of it and it bears a number of similarities to Shimada’s debut. But it didn’t captivate me like the first book did. Once again, you, the reader, are invited to solve the crime. The clues are all there. But can you solve the mystery and most importantly HOW the crimes were committed before the somewhat inefficient local detectives do.
I have to confess that towards the last half to a third, I started to lose interest a little and began skim reading sections. These sections mostly seemed to be the local detectives discussing ANOTHER way the murders ‘could’ have been committed or ANOTHER possible MO they had dreamt up for the house-bound group of suspects. The story then switches when a familiar detective is brought in to stop the dilly-dallying and make some arrests, Kiyoshi Mitarai from The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. What I found surprisingly hard at this point was switching from third person to first person. The entire book is told in third person up until this point. I struggled to get my head around the change.
Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of a complex mystery and like to play the part of the detective and you have time on your hands then yes, absolutely, I recommend this book to you. I’m putting a lot of how I feel about this book down to bad timing. I should have put it to one side and come back to it at another time when there was less going on in my life. My love for The Tokyo Zodiac Murders remains strong. If you are looking for a Japanese mystery to read then I completely and utterly recommend you read The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.
I chose to read and review an eARC of Murder in the Crooked House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada (trans. Louise Heal Kawai) was published in the UK by Pushkin Vertigo on 31st January 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Born in 1948 in Hiroshima prefecture, Soji Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ by international audiences. A novelist, essayist and short-story writer, he made his literary debut in 1981 with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which was shortlisted for the Edogawa Rampo Prize. Blending classical detective fiction with grisly violence and elements of the occult, he has gone on to publish several highly acclaimed series of mystery fiction. He is the author of 100+ works in total. In 2009 Shimada received the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award in recognition of his life’s work.