Sunday, 27 September 2020

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo
First published in Japanese as Inugamike no Ichizoku in Japan by Kadokawa Corporation in 1951. English language translation by Yumiko Yamazaki published by Pushkin Vertigo on the 6th February 2020.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fiendish classic murder mystery, from one of Japan's greatest crime writers

In 1940s Japan, the wealthy head of the Inugami Clan dies, and his family eagerly await the reading of the will. But no sooner are its strange details revealed than a series of bizarre, gruesome murders begins. Detective Kindaichi must unravel the clan's terrible secrets of forbidden liaisons, monstrous cruelty, and hidden identities to find the murderer, and lift the curse wreaking its bloody revenge on the Inugamis.

The Inugami Curse is a fiendish, intricately plotted classic mystery from a giant of Japanese crime writing, starring the legendary detective Kosuke Kindaichi.

Having not previously heard of Seishi Yokomizo, I relied on my faith in the quality of work published by Pushkin Vertigo when choosing to download a review copy of The Inugami Curse from NetGalley and I am glad to say that I wasn't at all disappointed! The character of independent sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi was great fun to read about and made a refreshing change from the norm. He's not a divorced alcoholic, but does have suitably quirky personal habits a traits that make him come across as less of a threat to the criminally inclined than he really is.

Kindaichi has his work cut out to unravel the convoluted trail of murders surrounding the Inugami family as its members start to be picked off one after the other and I imagine Yokomizo must have spent hours painstakingly plotting this novel in order to keep everything plausible. There is a surprisingly large cast of characters so I was pleased at how easily I managed to differentiate between them all. Yokomizo doesn't go in for deep portraits, but can deftly sketch individuals so they are each memorable. Admittedly there are a few moments when The Inugami Curse hasn't aged so well - women are valued almost entirely by their physical appearance, for example, and at one point Kindaichi is critical of a young woman whose (emotional) 'strength made her unfeminine'. As readers we are privy to a couple of ignorantly homophobic thoughts from him too.

Yokomizo describes the natural world and changing seasons around Nasu in a way that adds great atmosphere to the story. Storms flare up or snow falls at just the right time to accentuate scenes, but without seeming overly played. There's perhaps too much foreshadowing, particularly in the first third of the story, but the narrative keeps up a great pace throughout, especially for such a complicated mystery. I appreciated the brief recaps which gave me a moment to draw breath alongside Kindaichi, before plunging back in! I think The Inugami Curse would strongly appeal to fans of authors such as Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh or George Bellairs. The novel is excellent classic crime fiction with a tangible Japanese flavour.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Seishi Yokomizo / Crime fiction / Books from Japan

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