Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Around the World in Mystery, Part Two. And A Contest.

A Drawing for My New Novel. 

I will mail out a hard-cover copy of my new mystery, Never Kill A Friend, to two persons randomly chosen from chosen from among those who drop me an email. The book will be signed and stamped with my "bloody" thumbprint (red ink) - you can't get a better proof of authenticity than that. To qualify, send your name in an email to Selections will be made on Monday at which time I will ask for the winners addresses. Thanks.

Around the World in Mystery, Part Two.

In Part One, I looked at famous mystery writers' recommendations for mysteries written by authors from (or in some instances, mysteries set in) Sweden, Ireland, Africa and Asia. I also included Spain's Carlos Ruiz Zafón's list of best Gothic of the 20th century. 

Today, I will look at Japan. For those who like a bottom line, only five of the mysteries are available in English. For those who primarily read in English, that is enough to get started.

In 1985 and 2012, the Mystery Writers of Japan together with Tozai Magazine put together lists of the 100 Top Mysteries. These lists were divided into "Western" mysteries (those outside of Japan) and Eastern mysteries, those from Japan. Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie fared best in Western mysteries. The following presents the top 10 Japanese mysteries from each of their lists.


1     Gokumon To by Seishi Yokomizo (1949)
The title can be translated as: Gokumon Island. Three sisters are murdered on a small island off the coast of Hiroshima. Stars his famous detective, Kôsuke Kindaichi. Although not available in English translation, it was made into the film, The Devil's Island.
2     Kyomu e no Kumotsu by Hideo Nakai (1964)
The title can be translated as: Signifying Nothing. Not available in English translation.
3     Ten to Sen by Seicho Matsumoto (1958)
Matsumoto mixed conspiracy theories and solid writing to become one of the bestselling Japanese writers. Ten to Sen is available in English translation as: Points and Lines.
4     Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken by Ango Sakaguchi (1948)
Its title can be translated as: A Disconnected Murder. Not available in English translation.
5     Kokushikan Satsujin Jiken by Mushitaro Oguri (1935)
Its title can be translated as: The Black Death Museum Murder. Not available in English translation.
6     Dogura Magura by Kyusaku Yumeno (1935)
Sci-fi, thriller classic about a man who wakes up in an asylum. Translated into French (but not English) and filmed as Dogra Magra.
7     Honjin Satsujin Jiken by Seishi Yokomizo (1947)
Its title can be translated as: Honjin Murder Case. Filmed in 1977 as Death in an Old Mansion. Featuring Detective Kosuki Kindaichi. Not translated into English.
8     Kuroi Toranku by Tetsuya Ayukawa (1956)
Its title can be translated as: Black Trunk. Not translated into English.
9     Modorigawa Shinju by Mikihiko Renjo (short stories) (1980)
Its title can be translated as: Return to Suicide River. Filmed in 1982 and 1983. Not translated into English.
10     Shisei Satsujin Jiken by Akimitsu Takagi (1948)
It is available in English as: The Tattoo Murder Case, a good translation of its title.

2012 An additional five novels made the 2012 top ten list that were not on the 1985 list.

3    Senseijutsu Satsujin Jiken by Soji Shimada (1981)
Available in English translation as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Mystery as a puzzle. You are given the clues and need to arrange them to find them the solution.
5     Kasha by Miyuki Miyabe (1992)
Available in English translation as All She Was Worth. Murder and a commentary on consumerism.
7     Dai Yukai by Shin Tendo (1978)
Title can be translated as: A Grand Kidnapping. Not available in English translation.
8     Jukkakukan no Satsujin by Yukito Ayatsuji (1987)
With a nod to And Then There Were None, ten students of mystery convene at a mansion on an isolated island to solve a murder that took place there. Of course, they become the next victims. Available in English translation as The Decagon House Murders.
9     Moryo no Hako by Natsuhiko Kyogoku (1995)
Kidnappings, mysterious institutions and serial murder. Not available in English translation, although the first in the series, Summer of the Ubume, is. 

Part Three: Around The World in Mystery Locations.

Disarming cover art for Honjin Satsujin Jiken.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. His latest mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, recently won second place in the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at


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