Book review: 『魔術師』 by Edogawa Rampo


Title: 『魔術師』 (まじゅつし)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Publisher: 集英社文庫
315 pages

This is the 5th book in the Kogoro Akechi (明智小五郎) collection, and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book per month.


「今度の賊は犯罪史上に前例もないほど恐ろしいやつだ。」 (At this point, I feel like there is a similar statement in each and every Akechi novel… 😅)

Great story

I absolutely loved this novel. The story is really great, it feels like reading Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Alan Poe and Gaston Leroux at the same time. Mysterious threatening letters and a locked room mystery… I am here for that!

I also found that the novel remains suspenseful and engaging until the end. Even though there are some predictable events, the story always find a way to trigger the reader’s curiosity. This is the fifth book of the series that I read, and I find that the story tends to become repetitive after a while in longer novels. 『魔術師』 keeps surprising the reader with unexpected scenes and twists, and it is my favourite novel so far.

Closer to the first Akechi

In the last two novels, Akechi only appeared briefly and very late, but in 『魔術師』 he is here right from the beginning. The reader is also able to feel closer to him than in the previous novels: we follow him in his investigation, and he feels like a concrete character who actually has a place to live and is animated by feelings. As a result, I found that this novel felt like reading the first short stories, where Akechi was actually our protagonist and not just some kind of deus ex machina intervention to solve the mystery at the end of the novel.

Memorable scenes

What really surprised me in this novel is how spooky some scenes are. There were dismembered bodies and things like that in the previous books, but this one brings things to the next level with very memorable scenes. The scene of the clock was very striking and not one I am likely to forget. The magic show was also quite disturbing. Overall, I found every single scene of this novel much better than any of the previous ones. Characters are not just simply locked in dark rooms, there are chilling details and sinister background stories that make this novel stand out compared to the others.


I did not really like the previous novel 『猟奇の果』, and overall, I found that I was liking the Kogoro Akechi books less and less, so this one came as a pleasant surprise. I also found that the narrator often hinted at previous stories, creating a complicity with the reader who has been reading the whole series… it feels good to be a part of it 🙂

Illustration: 実は福田氏は飼っている純白の牡猫なのだが… (if you read the story, you’ll know that my drawing is not accurate, but it was easier to leave it like that.)

Book review: 『名もなき毒』 by Miyuki Miyabe


Title: 『名もなき毒』 (なもなきどく) (Nameless Poison)
Author: Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき)
Publisher: 文春文庫
607 pages

This is the second book in the Saburo Sugimura series 杉村三郎シリーズ. There are 5 main titles in the series so far.

The series should be read in order as the second book reveals facts from the first book 『誰か』, and overall, seeing how the main protagonist Saburo Sugimura evolves is what makes this series the most interesting in my opinion.

This story takes place one year after the events of 『誰か』.


Saburo Sugimura works for his step-father’s company, Imada group, and he and his colleagues are having trouble with a former employee. Sugimura will also find himself tackling a serial murder case and do what his wife calls 探偵みたいなこと.

Underwhelming for a detective story

This is classified as a 推理小説, but I personally would not say that this book really falls in this category. It does have a murder case, but the book is more focused on the main character and his daily life than on the investigation. Overall, I would not recommend this book to someone looking for an exciting detective novel.

First of all, the pace of this novel is incredibly slow. The book is 600 pages long, but it is not because there are a lot of things happening… the same story could be told with 300 pages only.

Similarly to the first novel of the series, 『誰か』, Saburo Sugimura is not a private detective (yet), so the investigative parts are not the most exciting. A credible explanation as to why a normal salary man would start investigating a murder case is also needed. This makes for a very slow set-up which was quite similar to the first book.

As for the event that make this story a “detective story”, namely a serial poisoning which sounded very promising at first, it ends up being more and more underwhelming as we get closer to the truth.

There is another side story that involves one of Saburo Sugimura’s former assistants, and I found this part of the story to be much more interesting and engaging than the main investigation on the poisoning.

Second half feeling quite long and slow

I loved the first half of the novel and read it quickly, but it took me forever to go through the second half. I found that the pace of the novel became irritably slow, and even though I liked this book overall, I slowly lost interest in the story. It was easy to foresee what would happen and yet, we had to go through all the lengthily steps that led to it.

Great main character: Saburo Sugimura

With only the first two books of the series read so far, I have already spent more than 1000 pages with Saburo Sugimura. I find that the main interest of this series is to follow Sugimura and share his daily life at work and with his family. His relationship with his father-in-law and how this affects his life at work and his private life is particularly interesting.

Good series overall but not for fans of detective fiction

I would not recommend this book or the series to someone who wants a good detective/crime novel with suspense and an exciting investigation. However, if you want to read an entertaining novel with a solid main character, this series is very good. Again, to me the main interest of the book was to follow Saburo Sugimura, so I would definitely recommend to read the series in order, rather than just picking this one book.

I will continue the series for sure, as I want to know what life has in store for Saburo Sugimura. (The next novel is even longer than this one with 800+ pages…)

Illustration: 紙パックのウーロン茶に混入されていたのは、今度もまた青酸性の毒物だった。p.13

Book review: 『猟奇の果』 by Edogawa Rampo


Title: 『猟奇の果』 (りょうきのはて)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Published by 集英社文庫
293 pages

This is the fourth book of the collection 明智小五郎件簿 by publisher 集英社文庫.

My reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book of the collection per month (there are 12 books in total).


Repetitive patterns

I start wondering if reading one Kogoro Akechi every month was a good idea, because it feels like I am always reading the same book. The plot is different in every novel obviously, but there are patterns and situations that Edogawa Rampo uses in every book, and it start feeling very repetitive to me: the protagonist obsessed with crime and detective novels, the mysterious house with mysterious rooms, parts of dismembered bodies scattered in the city…

Detective novel?

To be honest, I did not really like this book because it feels so far away from the first short stories that I greatly loved. In the first Akechi stories, there was a lot of psychology involved and also a lot of deduction. Why would people commit murder? how would they react afterwards? These questions were inherent to the stories. Here, I found that the characters’ motivations were not always clear, the focus being more to describe the deeds themselves than to reflect on what led to them.

In the first stories, there were also theories of crime and investigation: is the perfect crime possible? are witnesses reliable? and so on. In 『猟奇の果』 , there is no detective deductions. Every lead is found by chance (if you wander in a park at night, you are sure to find a lead), and there is more tailing than deduction going on.

This made me feel like I was reading a thriller rather than a detective novel. Similarly to the precedent novel, Kogoro Akechi also appears quite late in the book. We also don’t really see him investigating, he just appears with the solution at some point.


I was not fan of the mechanism employed in this novel, it felt like reading SF. I love realistic novels, and so I had a hard time feeling interested in this one.

Strange pace

The novel is divided into two parts and they are very different. I loved the atmosphere of the first part, it has this mystery going on and some good spine-chilling moments. However, there is also a lot of shadowing and not much deductions, so I soon started to feel a little bored.

Akechi appears in the second part, so I was expecting more detective work. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of Akechi, and we mostly see how the villains fulfil their scheme. Compared to the first part, the second one is much larger in scale and the pace is much faster.

This feels a little off balance because the book spends a lot of time (the whole part 1) describing events that are not that important to the story, leaving the same amount of space (part 2) for the core of the plot, which is a large-scaled machination with political implications and a criminal organisation. I think that it would have been better if each part was a novel in itself.

The end also felt a little quick, but this was already the case in previous novels so I was expecting it.

Still addictive

So far, this is the novel I liked the less. The series is still addictive though, and I can’t wait to start the next one. Maybe those repetitive patterns are what makes this series so addictive, I can’t wait to see more dismembered bodies I guess… (edit: I started the fifth book after writing this review and we do start things off with a severed head floating on the Sumida river.)

Illustration: 「前の車だ、あれを見失わぬように、どこまでも尾行してくれたまえ」「大丈夫ですよ。この夜ふけに、まぎれる車がないから、めったに見失うことはありやしませんや」 p.65

April wrap up

One of my goals for April was to clean up and re-order my bookshelves, and I did not complete this goal… I did move around some textbooks and got rid of old magazines, but I still need to order my books. I want to order them in alphabetical order (by author) and add a tag with the each author’s name written in English.

Illustration: Han River, Yeouido.


2021 reading challenge

I am keeping up with my reading challenge so far 🙂

『猟奇の果』 was the novel I liked the least, I start feeling that all the books of the series feel very similar, with some scenes and patterns coming back in every story. The mechanism that holds the story together in 『猟奇の果』 was also not really what I want to read in detective novels, so overall, this was rather a disappointment.

I also found this book a little bit more difficult than the previous ones.

2 books from my TBR pile

I finally got around to reading 『告白』 by Kanae Minato (湊かなえ)!

This is my fourth book by this author and by far my favourite. I did not love all the books I read by Minato, but this one was truly excellent, one of the best books I have read in Japanese so far.

I feel a bit ashamed to have waited so long to read this book, when I had it on my bookshelf for two or three years.

And I read a book I had on my TBR pile for a while: 『満願』 by Honobu Yonezawa (米澤穂信).

This is the second book I read by this author, and the two books gave me the same feeling: I liked them, but did not love them either, and I found them a little bit more difficult to read than most mystery novels.

2 books from my book haul

I have finished one book from my latest book haul: 『聖母』 by Rikako Akiyoshi (秋吉理香子).

This was a really good thriller: a fast pace, enough suspense, a sense of danger and the constant feeling that there is more to it… and there is! It was also easy to read and relatively short, so this was a good relaxing read. Just what I needed before starting a much longer one:

I started reading 『名もなき毒』 by Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき).

『名もなき毒』 is very slow for a mystery novel. There is a short and catchy introductory chapter, but then the novel goes on with the protagonist’s (Saburo Sugimura) daily life, and it takes forever to reconnect with the event described in the introductory chapter.

Nevertheless, I find 『名もなき毒』 extremely addictive. I don’t know why exactly, but I cannot put it down, even though nothing much happens most of the time. It is easy to identify with Sugimura, I love the author’s style, I find the book easy to read… I have only read one third of the book, but I know for sure that I will continue the series and read other books by Miyuki Miyabe.

Plans for May

I really must continue to work on my bookshelves and finish writing the page “Japanese authors” where I want to list all the authors I have read in Japanese so far. It is still a work in progress, but hopefully I can update it in May.

As for books, I want to finish 『名もなき毒』 and of course, read the 5th Kogoro Akechi. It is a novel, 『魔術師』, the same length as 『猟奇の果』 (just under 300 pages).

Book review: 『聖母』 by Rikako Akiyoshi


Title: 『聖母』 (せいぼ)
Author: Rikako Akiyoshi (秋吉理香子)
Published by 双葉社文庫
301 pages

Rikako Akiyoshi has written several mystery novels, including 『暗黒女子』 which has been adapted into film in 2017.


When I was reading this book, I was thinking that it was a good thriller, easy to read and suspenseful enough, even though it was not the best mystery novel I had ever read. But the end… wow, it completely blew my mind! I was so taken aback that my first reaction was to doubt my Japanese level. I thought I had misunderstood the book entirely, and I had to check reviews from native readers to see if they had been tricked as well.

I feverously re-read several passages, when I finished the book, haha. It’s the kind of novel that makes you want to re-read it when you finished it.

I love mystery novels that play with the reader and have something more going on than just the murder case of the story, and 『聖母』 really falls in this category.

Now I must say that the novel also suffers a little from its trick. The problem is that I had a hard time understanding or feeling sympathy for the characters. I could understand or guess what they had been through, and while this justified their feelings, it did not really gave a plausible explanation for their actions.

Obviously, everything comes into place at the end and this is why I found this book so good. But at the same time, I was reading the whole book thinking that the characters (and their actions) were not realistic. I thought it was a flaw in the novel, and you really need to read it until the end to see how good it is.

Overall, 『聖母』 is the kind of book that makes me want to check out the whole bibliography of its author. I will certainly read the other mystery novels by Rikako Akiyoshi. Her latest book, 息子のボーイフレンド is also on my list, though I will wait to see if it gets a bunko edition.

Illustration: 早く家に帰りたかったが、薫が「もっと遊ぶぅ」とぐずり始めたので、団地の中にある小さな公園に立ち寄った。砂場と滑り台くらいしかないが、保育園の行き帰りに利用するには充分だ。p.65