In the Soho edition that I read, these paragraphs precede the story:
In the shadowy depths of Mount Togakusbi in Nagano Prefecture, there lived three powerful, wicked sorcerers who were masters of the black arts of magic and enchantment. These mysterious magicians were known as Tsuneciabime, Jiraiya, and Orochimaru, and their legendary exploits have been the subjects of folk tales, Kabuki plays, woodblock prints, and some of the most spectacular Japanese art tattoos ever created.Another edifying element of the story was the portrayal of Japan after World War II. The book starts with these sentences:
This is the tragic story of three of those tattoos.
It was the summer of 1947, and the citizens of Tokyo, already crushed with grief and shock over the loss of the war, were further debilitated by the languid heat. The city was ravaged. Seedy-looking shacks had sprung up on the messy sites of bombed-out buildings. Makeshift shops overflowed with colorful black-market merchandise, but most people were still living from hand to mouth.Since I am introducing these elements of the book first, you can probably tell that I enjoyed the book for the picture of Japan at the time, and opening my eyes to tattoo culture in that country. I found this to be a good and enjoyable mystery, at times, but I did have quibbles with some elements.
2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet for the letter T.
This post is also my fourth submission for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII event. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery and suspense. This book has some very creepy elements, and it is an example of the locked room mystery.
Also counts towards a few other challenges: the Vintage Mystery Challenge and the Japanese Literature Challenge, and the New Authors Challenge.
This novel turns out to be of the Sherlock Holmes / Watson type, with a Genius Detective, in this case Kyosuke Kamizu. Kyosuke is an old friend of Kenzo's, also a doctor, and also recently back from military duty and a detention camp in Java. And our genius does not show up until page 209 of this 324 page novel. This was a (very) minor quibble I had with this book. Between the murder and the arrival of Kyosuke, much time was spent on the police and Kenzo spinning their wheels, waiting for some break. That may be realistic, but then a genius showing up to figure it all out is not realistic.
I also had problems with the translation. The Library of Congress describes the book as "translated and adapted by Deborah Boehm." There were additions to supplement the text (apparently). This paragraph seemed to contain such comments:
The three men shared a light meal of rice, miso soup with tofu and straw mushrooms, grilled butterfish, and various savory side dishes. (Daiyu's wife Mariko, as was customary, served them in silence, then ate by herself later in the kitchen.) Between bites, Daiyu and Kyosuke poked good-natured fun at ...The book was an enjoyable read. Yet, such asides seemed out of place and took me out of the story.This review at Scene of the Crime also comments on these aspects of the translation, and covers aspects of the book that I have not discussed.
Even with the aspects that I personally found negative, I would highly recommend this book. Definitely worth the read. I will seek out the other two books by Takagi that have English translations:
Honeymoon to Nowhere
My husband rated this book very highly at Goodreads. Here is his elegantly brief review:
A complex and exceedingly clever murder mystery set in post-WWII Tokyo. And in classic tradition, the solution (no, I'm not saying what it is) is all laid out for us in the last few chapters. Quite a pleasure to read.