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Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) by Soji Shimada

Posted: July 27th, 2020, 9:37 am
by k11chi
This is that good stuff. Recently we've been getting 2019 and 2020 translated prints of legendary Japanese detective fiction by notable authors like Soji Shimada and Seishi Yokomizo. I bought four books off the net (came over a month late) but these are Amazing. This is the story that Kindaichi plagiarized heavily in its 2nd volume (Mummy's Curse). It's also one of the main stories that paved the way to the Neo Orthodox Detective Fiction of today (it actually originated from Japan since modern western world is filled with hard-boiled crime fiction and has very few notable soft-boiled detective fiction stories it had in the Golden Age (many say up to 1930's)).

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders tells the tale of a murder case in 1936 where an artist, a father of four, who is absolutely deranged, wants to create the perfect woman named Azoth (means 'A to Z'), and to do that he needs six virgin bodies to cut up and to put together based on rules of alchemy and astrology. The artist plans to leave a letter behind that he will leave next to Azoth that is placed in the middle of Japan, at a place of "13" that he won't tell the exact location of because there's a chance the letter will be found before he kills himself. The writer of the letter wants the future generation to understand his thoughts and his fascination with women.

It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that the artist actually gets killed before doing anything. Yet the women still end up being murdered in gruesome ways. One really has to wonder "Why?"
It's a fair-play whodunnit with a Challenge to the Reader in it (Queen-style). The prologue is insanely disturbing, as you read the letter. But it had some problems like being way too info-dump~ish. So when the story moves forward 40 years as the mystery is still unsolved, and we learn the history of the case and how it affected Japan and our main characters (who also read the letter the reader reads in the prologue), it's just awesome and has that style that manages to make the next chapter more interesting than the last, wonderfully working to make the book easily digestible. The answers here are amazing and we also get one of those original amateur detectives here in our lively main characters Kazumi Ishioka and Kiyoshi Mitarai, I really like the way the characters are introduced in these types books as they talk to the reader so you get to directly understand who is who ("My name is Kazumi Ishioka and I'm..." etc.)

I heavily suggest people to grab a copy of this, as well as the three others in this photo (the four Japanese detective fiction books I bought). Inugami Clan and Zodiac Murders are often hailed as some of the greatest, but some may also argue to the other two. For people who want to get more into Japanese detective fiction these are absolutely great picks. All of them are fresh prints with great translations so now's a great time to order them.
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