Japanese crime writers have always prided themselves on their knowledge of the western canon, but English-language readers have been denied access to them for too long. With its roots in the Golden Age, Yokomizo’s work feels at once familiar and tantalisingly strange. It’s an absolute pleasure to see it translated at last in these beautifully produced English editions.
As befitting someone who writes detective stories, Yokomizo is clear and meticulous in his writing: a detailed description of the annexe and the surrounding landscape is given, right down to the pine trees, “neatly pruned, their heavy lower branches supported here and there by crutches made of pieces of young bamboo”. What follows is the dismantling, by amateur sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi, of a rich family dynasty whose chequered history is in part responsible for the deaths. The backdrop of pre and post war Japan elevates this book from being just another murder mystery. Particularly of interest are the hierarchies within society and within the family unit