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review 2017-10-22 03:27
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada, translation by Ross and Shika Mackenzie
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders to his friend Kiyoshi, an astrologer and occasional detective. The six young women were, in fact, killed and mutilated in the manner described in Heikichi’s will, but Heikichi couldn’t possibly have done it: he’d been dead for several days prior to the murders. In addition to Heikichi’s murder and the Azoth murders, one of Heikichi’s other stepdaughters was also killed. No one is sure whether that murder was related to the others or not.

After Kiyoshi takes on a client with a distant but potentially embarrassing connection to the case, Kiyoshi and Kazumi end up with a one-week deadline to solve a mystery that no one else has managed to solve in 40 years. Diagrams included throughout the text invite readers to solve the mystery along with them.

If you like trying to solve mysteries before a book’s fictional detective does, you really need to give this a try. It’s an excellent puzzle, and the author even interjects a couple times in order to let readers know when enough information has been included to allow them to solve the mystery. Of course, he interjects late enough that readers have more information than they need, muddying the water a bit, but that’s part of the fun.

The first part, with Heikichi’s will, was particularly strong. Heikichi casually describing why he needed to kill his daughters and nieces was incredibly creepy. I promise, though, that that’s as creepy as the book gets. Although the description of how the murders were actually accomplished was horrifying, the book’s overall tone didn’t have much of a feeling of creepiness, horror, or even urgency to it. Yes, Kiyoshi only had a week to solve the mystery, but the only things at stake, really, were his ego and reputation. Most of the people directly affected by the Tokyo Zodiac Murders were long dead.

There were a few times when I started to lose interest as the book became a little too “two guys talking about the facts of the case,” but for the most part those facts were really interesting. I had all kinds of theories about who might have killed Heikichi and how, how Kazue, Heikichi’s eldest stepdaughter, was involved, and who had killed the other women. None of my theories fit all of the facts of the case, and all my theories were torpedoed after Shimada included one particular document.

Kazumi, who was basically Kiyoshi’s Watson, had some ideas of his own that sounded promising, but I was fairly certain that he’d miss the key detail that would bring everything together. By the time Kiyoshi finally announced that he’d solved the murders, both Kazumi and I were thoroughly lost. It got to the point where I felt like Shimada was practically shoving the finished puzzle under my nose and I still couldn’t solve it. It was frustrating and fun at the same time. If it hadn’t been for work and sleep, I’d probably have read the last part of the book, where everything was finally revealed, all in one go. I can confidently say that I’d never have figured everything out on my own. There were aspects that stretched my suspension of disbelief, but, even so, the solution was really good.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable mystery that kept me guessing until the final revelation. It was very deliberately structured like a puzzle that readers were invited to solve along with Kiyoshi and Kazumi, but, despite the author’s two interjections, it still didn’t feel quite as detached as a couple similar mysteries I can think of. Kiyoshi and Kazumi had some life to them and didn’t just feel like pieces on the author’s gameboard. I particularly enjoyed their conversation about Sherlock Holmes and well-known mystery authors, and Kazumi's enjoyment of various locations in Japan made me wish I could visit them myself.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-12 22:30
Random Thoughts: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
Tokyo Zodiac Murders (Detective Mitarai's Casebook) - Shika MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Ross MacKenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
by Soji Shimada

 

 

Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead--in a room locked from the inside.  His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women.  Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural Japan.

By 1979, these Tokyo Zodiac Murders have been obsessing a nation for decades, but not one of them has been solved.  A mystery-obsessed illustrator and a talented astrologer set off around the country--and you follow, carrying the enigma of the Zodiac murderer through madness, missed leads and magic tricks.  You have all the clues, but can you solve the mystery before they do?



I'm not entirely sure I know what I want to say about this book.

The truth is that while it was easy to become completely immersed into our two main characters' discussion and dissection of the Zodiac Murders that occurred forty years prior to the book's 1979 setting, I had also found I had a hard time keeping up with some of the deductions tossed out by our main astrological detective, Kiyoshi Mitarai.  I honestly have to admit, I was confounded by all the clues--maybe I'm just not made out to be a detective.

I was as confused as the narrator, Kazumi Ishioka, and found myself truly wondering how Kiyoshi had come to certain conclusions.

I had a slight inkling of what kind of person might be the culprit behind the Zodiac Murders, but I was flummoxed by how the act could have been committed, as well as who exactly could have been the murderer.

Of course, when we get into the "Kiyoshi Reveals All" part of the conclusion, I can see how cleverly the entire thing was constructed.  I didn't see it coming, but I see how it all worked.

I liked the build-up and introduction of the Zodiac Murders--the first half of the book consisted of Kazumi giving Kiyoshi the rundown of the case, what happened forty years ago, and some brief background on the victims and suspects.  By all rights, this should have felt like a massive infodump, but with Kiyoshi's random interjections and color commentary, it was actually quite amusing to follow.

The second half of the book, wherein Kiyoshi finally gets serious and goes out to do some of his own investigating might have lost me a little bit, since I'm not entirely sure if a whole lot was accomplished aside from a nice visit to Kyoto.  The visual of the cherry blossoms was lovely, and the mentions of some Japanese foods made my mouth water.  I know... this is a book about a grotesque serial murder...

But I appreciated some of the random tangents, even if I thought that Kiyoshi might have gotten a bit overly dramatic at some points.

A couple other points that came to mind:

  • The talk about longitude and latitude kind of lost me.  But there was an obvious emphasis on the depths at which the girls were buried that got me thinking, even if I couldn't figure out the significance.
  • The ending came off as kind of sad, in a heartbreaking way, when the culprit is revealed, and the reasons why, as well as a few other things that were mentioned.  Explaining why I felt a pang of sadness, however, would reveal the identity of the culprit, and I hope I didn't already say too much.


Overall, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was a very excellently outlined story.  And while I DID find the cheek at Sherlock Holmes a bit amusing (I've only read a few Sherlock stories), I also kind of found Kiyoshi's snub at famous fictional detectives a bit overmuch--like, I couldn't figure out if he was sincerely ignorant of the mentioned names while making fun, or if he was just being arrogant and sarcastic.

The truth is, it was a bit hard to tell sometimes if Kiyoshi was being sarcastic or not, but he sure as heck DID come off arrogant, even when he had a few sheepish moments.  I DID like the interaction between him and Kazumi, though; it somehow came off quite endearing.


***

 

Halloween Bingo 2017


Other Possible Squares:

  • Murder Most Foul:  For obvious reasons.
  • Amateur Sleuth:  Kiyoshi is an astrology professor (?) and Kazumi is an artist.
  • Serial/spree killer (?):  To be honest, the murders in this book seem more in line with a mass murder than serial killings, but the term serial killing had been used, so I'm not entirely sure about this one.
  • Diverse Voices:  And, of course, because this book was written by a Japanese author and set in Japan, translated into English for those of us who haven't yet learned how to fluently read kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/random-thoughts-tokyo-zodiac-murders.html
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review 2017-09-01 14:52
Great Locked Room Mystery in Japan
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie

I am reading this for "Locked Room Mystery": The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada. This apparently is a locked room mystery novel that has been getting rave reviews. 

 

Wow all I have to say is that this book was great. More than anything I love clever books like this, and this was definitely very clever. I honestly was a bit worried for a couple of minutes that maybe I wouldn't be able to get the book since the setting is in Japan. But wow the author Soji Shimada is able to pretty much show you that murder is murder no matter where it takes place.

 

This book is broken into two time periods. The first is Japan in 1936 and the second time period is Japan in 1979.

 

In 1936, we are treated to a letter that is left by an artist named Heikichi Umezawa. Umezawa wants to "build" the perfect woman. We read of his obsession with women and their bodies as well as his comments on astrology. We realize that he plans on doing away with his children, stepchildren, and nieces (all female) and using parts of them to build his perfect woman and bring Japan back into a state of harmony. 

 

Oh here's the problem, Heikichi Umezawa is found murdered in a locked room. Yet the murders still take place. Who could have decided to follow Umezawa's plan?

 

When we are back in1979 we follow two amateur detectives (Kiyoshi Mitari and Kazumi Ishioka) our Sherlock and Dr. Watson if you will. FYI that would tick Mitari off since he had some hilarious bad opinions about Sherlock. We find out that the murders are famous in Japan and many people have tried to figure out who killed the women after Umezawa was dead where the perfect woman was left. Just like Sherlock, Mitari is subject to depression, and Kazumi is hoping that the puzzle of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders will drag him out of his depression. 

 

I was fascinated with Mitari since he is a respected astrologer and fortune teller. It seems an odd hobby for our amateur detective, but it makes sense when you get into the astrology aspect of this book.

 

There are a lot of characters in this one, but I was able to keep them straight. The author provides you the names of everyone up front and throughout the book. We really only get Kazumi's deductions and point of view since he is telling us the story. We do get glimpses of what drives Mitari though. 

 

I loved the writing. Reading about hos corpses were dismembered repeatedly may not be your thing, so be forewarned. The flow was great too. I also applauded the author for including illustrations of the locked room, and diagrams of other rooms, as well as the corpses being dismembered, and also people's names to family trees, etc. There are a lot of really good illustrations in this book and it made it for me, into a five-star read. 

 

I will say that aspects of this story just thrilled me from beginning to end. Trying to work out Umezawa was murdered and how an unexpected snowfall came into play was great.

 

 

I also loved thinking of Kyoto and cherry blossoms.

 

 

The reveal of who the murder was and how they carried it off was brilliant. I would imagine that Dame Agatha would have given this author kudos. Because once was revealed I had to go back and re-read clues.

 

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review 2017-04-22 21:03
Dodsworth in Tokyo
Dodsworth in Tokyo - Tim Egan

I was a little nervous for this one, but there's nothing offensive that I saw. It feels relatively modern and all the books are culture lite but manage to avoid stereotypes (that I can remember... I'm writing this two weeks after I read the series).

 

I hope Dodsworth keeps travelling and continues to go beyond Europe.

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review 2017-02-26 07:05
"A Clean Kill In Tokyo - John Rain #1" by Barry Eisler
A Clean Kill in Tokyo - Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler recently reacquired the rights to his John Rain novels, gave them new titles and new covers and personally narrated new audiobook versions.

I was intrigued and decided to try the first book "A Clean Kill In Tokyo" which was published in 2002 as "Rain Fall".

It was a fun read all the way through, not least because Barry Eisler turns our to be an excellent narrator.

John Rain is a Tokyo-based assassin, who specialises in making it seem as if the men he kills die of natural causes. Rain had a Japanese father and a white American mother, was raised in both countries and is fully at home in neither. He lives an affluent but disconnected life, built on killing for money.

In this novel, he's the hero. That's not a role he has much experience of. He takes it on reluctantly and it doesn't entirely fit him. Even as a hero, his kill-rate is very high and causes him not a moments disquiet.

The foot-in-two-worlds aspects of the book are well executed and gave me an intersting blend of the familiar and the exotic..Tokyo becomes almost a character in the book. It's described the way someone who lives there would see it, with its peculiarities taken for granted. The tourist map of Tokyo has been overwritten by one that stresses the places that are important to John Rain: Jazz Clubs. Whiskey Bars and the intricate subway network that he uses to elude those trying to follow him.

The plot is a mixture of backstory, explaining how John came to be the killer he now is, and a protect-the-brave-independent-but-vulnerable-damsel-in-distress theme that's given a twist by the fact the Rain killed her father.

There is political intrigue, espionage, crime, corruption and lots and lots of fight scenes featuring martial arts, street fighting, knives, staves and guns.

I'm hooked now. Fortunately, there are eight John Rain books in print with a ninth coming out in July, so I expect them to become a regularly source of entertainment this year.

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