東野圭吾 Higashino Keigo

Higashino Keigo is one of my favourite Japanese authors and his books are quite easy to read in Japanese. I don’t know what makes his novels accessible for Japanese learners but among the novels I have tried to read in Japanese, Higashino Keigo’s are by far the easiest.

If you are looking for an easy novel to read in Japanese, I recommend 「回廊亭殺人事件」, or 「嘘をもうひとつだけ」, a collection of short stories.

What is frustrating when reading in a foreign language is that the books you can read are not necessarily the books you would want to read and vice-versa. But, unless you hate detective stories, I can hardly imagine someone not appreciating Higashino Keigo’s novels.

This is a list of the books I have read so far, included the books I read before beginning this site.

Detective Kaga series:

「卒業」(そつぎょう)

This is the very first book of the series and also the very first novel I have read in Japanese. As it was my first try, I must admit that it was quite hard and that I renounced understanding some parts of the novel, especially the ones dealing with the tea ceremony.

I was able to follow the story, understand what was happening and so on, but I think the novel was actually written in such a way that the reader could work on the case too and arrive at a conclusion. This, I wasn’t able to do.

In 「卒業」Kaga is still a student. All main characters are Kaga and his friends at the university. Of course, a suspicious death occurs, and Kaga investigates using mainly his brains and the thoroughness that characterises him.

The novel is a lot about kendo and tea ceremony. I enjoyed every part which describes the kendo practice (in fact, this is something important in Kaga’s life) but was rather bored by the tea ceremony descriptions. I couldn’t figure out who was doing what because my Japanese wasn’t good enough.

Anyway, 「卒業」is a very good book which introduces Kaga. It is certainly not the easiest book from the series though.

「眠りの森」(ねむりのもり)

The second story of the series. Kaga is now a detective, but we know that he once was a teacher before quitting the education world to the police. We still don’t know why.

The story plays inside a ballet school with the dancers as main characters. They are rehearsing for the staging of The Sleeping Beauty, hence the title. The novel mentions Swan Lake, too.

At first, I was afraid that description of ballet would be too difficult to understand, but it was not. This book was quite easy to read. I have read it just after 「卒業」and I don’t think that my Japanese comprehension level had changed a lot. Even though I struggled with 「卒業」, I found on the contrary「眠りの森」easy to understand.

I appreciate when a novel introduces a world that I am not familiar with, it is always a good way to expand one’s range of interests. I have watched the ballet The Sleeping Beauty on Youtube while I was reading the book XD

As for the detective story in itself, it was just a perfect one, a classic investigation with everything you’ll except to find in a detective story.

If you want to read a good mystery novel in Japanese, this book is a good choice.

「悪意」(あくい)

Now we come to a masterpiece. 「悪意」is not just an excellent detective novel, it is a remarkable fiction on the power of fiction. It totally manipulates the reader’s mind. Apart from reading in Japanese, this is a novel everyone interested in the psychology of crime and manipulation of thoughts should read.

As for the Japanese, I think it is a little harder than 眠りの森 mostly because there are fewer dialogues and long narrative parts. But still, it is not impossible and really worth the effort.

We also learn why Kaga quit teaching, so this book is also crucial to better understand the main character of the series.

I plan to watch the drama that was adapted from this book!

「どちらかが彼女を殺した」(どちらかがかのじょをころした)

An intriguing title and a shocking ending. This novel will challenge not only your Japanese but also your little grey cells, as Hercule Poirot would say.

I enjoyed reading this novel, especially the many dialogues that are always intense confrontations between the main characters of the story. I regretted that Kaga was very little present in this novel, operating far from the reader’s eyes.

All I can say is that as soon as I turned the last page of this book, I thought: What? I have to read it again!

「私が彼を殺した」(わたしがかれをころした)

This novel is very similar to 「どちらかが彼女を殺した」. Here again, Higashino Keigo decided to focus on the characters involved in the case and let inspector Kaga investigate behind the scenes.

I can say that this novel is one of the best crime-solving novels I have ever read. We have a murder of course, and to tell the story, three narrators. The problem is, these three narrators are the three suspects in this case… The reader is really asked to investigate, not only by analysing the facts and collecting clues but also by asking himself if the narrators are all sincere. This leads to a double investigation: one in the story to find the murderer and one in the reading act because in this case, the reader cannot entirely trust his narrators.

「嘘をもうひとつだけ」(うそをもうひとつだけ)

This is a collection of short stories that all involve inspector Kaga. They all have the same structure and are easy to read in Japanese. I would say that this book is perfect to start reading the Kaga series. It gives a good view of the main features of Kaga’s method, from the way he investigates to how he conducts interviews.

To anyone looking for an easy book in Japanese, this one is perfect!

Other novels

「回廊亭殺人事件」(かいろうていさつじんじけん)

I don’t know how to translate Kailoutei in English, it is the place where the whole story takes place, it’s like a long corridor in a U form.

It is a rather short novel of 300 pages with a lot of suspense. This is the novel I recommend to start with because it is a huis clos, which means the whole action takes place in the same place, with the same characters. This makes the novel easier to read because you won’t have a lot of descriptions, you won’t have to make an effort to understand where the characters are, who they met and so on.

One thing you should do if you read this book is to write down the characters name and some information about them and their position in the family. The characters will almost all appear at the same time, and it may be challenging to remember them all.

夢幻花」(むげんばな)

This is one of my favourites! I hesitated before buying it because I thought that a 470 pages novel was a bit too long for me to read in Japanese. But I wanted to read something Higashino Keigo had written recently to compare it with his older novels (the first of this list was written in 1986). Well, it really was a good story, and it wasn’t hard to read either. The story is rather complicated with different things to investigate, mysteries from the past, and different focalization but it was worth the effort.

「パラドックス13」

This novel is not a crime-solving puzzle but an adventure involving an SF element. One day, people suddenly disappear from the surface of the Earth. Only 13 persons remain. Around them, multiple accidents occur and soon, natural disasters follow. These 13 persons will have to meet, organise and try to survive, while unsolved questions accompany them in their struggle.

When the humanity seems to be reduced to 13 persons, do values still exist as they used to? Or do we have to re-define the Good and the Bad? These are questions that the characters ask themselves and, without knowing it, the reader finds himself questioning his values, too.

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