Posted 20 hours ago

The Decagon House Murders: Yukito Ayatsuji (Pushkin Vertigo)

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I'm going on about it because it was an aspect of the novel that I enjoyed deeply but I'm not sure how readers who haven't lived in Japan would take it. As the back-cover blurb reveals, they will all have to use their "murder-mystery expertise" to find out why and by whom they are being "picked off, one by one. From this point, the split narrative between Kawaminami’s investigations on the mainland and the carnival of death on the island make the reader ponder and doubt each development.

It was the second novel with the same premises that I read in a short period, but I must admit that this one beats ‘Whisper Island’ easily. This is the third Japanese locked-room mystery I've read this year, and although only a star separates this one from the prior two, The Decagon House was easily my favorite of the three. Seven friends go to a deserted island where a bloody triple murder-suicide was committed just six months before in this Japanese classic locked room mystery that gives a nod to And Then There Were None. The translation sounds exactly like the Japanese, to the point where many times I could know for certain what the Japanese word or phrase had originally been. The second English-language edition was published in December 2020 by Pushkin Press, and in July 2021 the manga adaptation, illustrated by Hiro Kiyohara, was announced for publication in America.

As the book builds towards its crescendo, the descriptions of the natural surroundings become poetic and ominous, in the tradition of the greatest Japanese literature. Six months earlier the owner of the island was brutally murdered alongside his wife and housekeepers, and the case remains unsolved. I admire that Ayatsuji took on a classic Christie - there's so much love for the Golden Age mysteries in this book.

They also, unknowingly, take on the contents of their books, as well as the names that adorn the front covers, as events quickly turn sinister and, with no escape from the island, they only have their own astute minds to help save them from their bloody fates. There is the extroverted pretty and the dowdy introvert…funnily enough one of the female characters is the first one to ‘lose it’, to the point of having to be sedated and referred to as hysterical. However, back in the 1980s to 1990s, Yukito Ayatsuji and his first novel did make a huge impression to the audience and his success had inspired an army of younger novelists when the Japanese crime and mystery market was dominated by the 'hard boiled/social' detective novels.Also, as mentioned before, the introduction to the book is fascinating enough alone to warrant a read.

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