Book review: 『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』by Tokuya Higashigawa


Title: 『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』(かんぜんはんざいにねこはなんびきひつようか?)
Author: Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)
Published by 光文社文庫
458 pages.

This is the third novel in the Ikagawa series (烏賊川市シリーズ), a comical detective series featuring private detective Morio Ukai. Ukai might be the worst fictional detective I know, but he somehow manages to solve murder cases in spite of his dubious deductions.


It took me some time to get into the story, but it turned out to be very good: a captivating murder mystery with alibis that are too good to be true and weird witness statements. I found the story excellent, but similarly to the second book of the story, I also did not always connect with scenes that only serve the comical aspect of the book.

This series feature two sets of characters: private detective Morio Ukai and his assistant Ryuhei Tomura on one side, and chief inspector Sunagawa and his subordinate detective Shiki on the other side.

I always found interesting that this series does not follow the pattern ”genius detective vs incompetent police officers”. Here the police detectives are actually quite good, and in this novel in particular, they are the ones who do all the job, and private detective Ukai looks more like a secondary character than the protagonist of the series.

I found the parts were we follow Sunagawa and Shiki to be much more interesting than the ones with Morio and Ryuhei. First, the police detectives are investigating a murder, whereas our private detective’s mission in this novel is to find a missing cat. Moreover, I found that some scenes featuring Morio Ukai and his team were often serving a comical purpose only and did not add much to the story.

The title of the book was very intriguing, but it turns out that this book is more about lucky cats than real cats…

When it comes to comical effects, I find that there are two types in this novel. The first type is when a scene that serves the plot and the investigation is told in a comical way. For example the scene when chief inspector Sunagawa asks witnesses to report on what they saw at different hours is described as if Sunagawa was an auctioneer trying to sell those said hours. I found this creative and very funny to read. The second type are scenes that are here just to add humour to the novel but which do not serve the story. For example, when Ukai fights with his landlady. I felt that this type of scenes would look great if the book was an anime, but I did not really enjoy reading them.

Overall, the murder case is excellent and engrossing, and while I found the humour partly good, partly unnecessary, it all comes down to a question of personal taste in the end. But comical effects aside, the author really has great ideas when it comes to writing murder mysteries, and this alone makes me want to continue the series.

Book review: 『ベスト8ミステリーズ2017』edited by the Mystery Writers of Japan


Title: 『ベスト8ミステリーズ2017』
Edited by the Mystery Writers of Japan (日本推理作家協会)
Published by 講談社文庫
439 pages

The Mystery Writers of Japan is an association founded by Edogawa Rampo in 1947. It presents two annual awards: the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for long and short fiction and the Edogawa Rampo Award for unpublished fiction.

The association also compiles a collection of the best short stories published each year. The book I am reviewing here is for the year 2017.

The short stories compiled in this edition are:

偽りの春 by Ten Furuta (降田天) (Ten Furuta is the pen name of Ei Hagino 萩野瑛 and So Ayukawa 鮎川颯.
階段室の女王 by Tadanori Masuda (増田忠紀)
火事と標本 by Tomoya Sakurada (櫻田智也)
ただ、運が悪かっただけ by Yo Ashizawa (芦沢央)
理由 by Yoshiki Shibata (柴田よしき)
プロジェクト:シャーロック by Takemaru Abiko (我孫子武丸)
葬儀の裏で by Nanami Wakatake (若竹七海)
虹 by Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき)

Illustration from 火事と標本


Unsurprisingly, all the short stories in this book are excellent, and reading it was a pure delight. Not only this format gives you the assurance that each short story will be very good, but it also allows you to discover new authors and read different styles.

The first short story is the winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and it was so good! It is the kind of story that makes you want to stop everything you are doing and read the entire bibliography of the author (or in this case, the authors). It is impressive to see how a 50 pages long story can manage to be so suspenseful and to trick the reader as well. The end really surprised me, because I was sure that I was right in my interpretation, but I was wrong.

My favourite story is another one though: 火事と標本. This story had the more interesting characters and it had a very strong impact on me. It is the kind of story that keeps you thinking about the characters and what happened. Again, this is only a 50 pages long story, but it affected me more than many novels have, and the characters are extremely well portrayed and feel very true. The end was also very good, just as I though that this story was not really a mystery, it turned out that it was.

From ただ、運が悪かっただけ

Speaking of impactful characters, the story by Miyuki Miyabe was to me the second best when it comes to characters depiction. The protagonist is a mother who fled her abusive husband and his family and found refuge in a shelter for women. Miyuki Miyabe makes you feel immediately close to the characters, and the story was really good. I just think that it is not really a mystery.

階段室の女王 was very entertaining and very well done I found. It felt very immersive and what started like an unlucky encounter turns into a real nightmare. The way someone who is perfectly innocent starts thinking and acting like a culprit when put in a certain situation was very well described. Overall, this was a fun and entertaining read.

プロジェクト:シャーロットis a SF detective fiction and was also a fun read. Though I prefer more realistic stories, I really liked this one and found the end very good.

理由 is a more classic story, and I found that some points were not convincing enough, but still a very enjoyable story if you like the genre.

ただ、運が悪かっただけ was unfortunately coming just after 火事と標本, and it shares a similar structure where a character shares an episode of his past with someone, which leads to a long flashback. Compared to 火事と標本, which shows us a really gripping tragedy, I fond that ただ、運が悪かっただけ looked pale, and I could not feel involved in the story of what the characters felt.

Finally, I must say that the story I liked the least is 葬儀の裏で by Nanami Wakatake. After reading a whole novel by this author (プレゼント), I came to the conclusion that her writing style was not really for me. I had exactly the same feeling when reading this short story. I still found it good and I enjoyed reading it, but not as much as the other stories. I also have a hard time connecting with the characters.

I will try to get my hands on the other collections of this series. Even though I prefer novels over short stories, this book is one of my favourite reads of the year.

Book review: 『大金塊|怪人二十面相』by Edogawa Rampo


Title: 『大金塊|怪人二十面相』(だいきんかい|かいじんにじゅうめんそう)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
431 pages

This book is the ninth title in the Kogoro Akechi collection published by Shueisha. The book contains two short novels that both belong to the Boy Detectives Club, a sub-series targeting young readers. It features Kogoro Akechi, but the main protagonist is Yoshio Kobayashi, Akechi’s young assistant.

怪人二十面相 is the first book of the Boy Detective Club series if we look at publishing date. The club itself is created at the end of this story. However, the Shueisha collection has classified the stories in order of occurrence in the fictional world, rather than publication date, and even though it was published later, there is no doubt that 大金塊 occurs before 怪人二十面相 (for example, there is no mention of the Club in 大金塊.)



Given that these two novels are books for children, I cannot really say that I enjoyed them as much as the ones from the regular Kogoro Akechi series. The tricks, the outcome and the plot are all very predictable, and Kogoro Akechi is not very present. As for Fumiyo, who used to be described as a female detective, she is now pushed into a mere Mrs Hudson role.

Nevertheless, I found these stories very pleasant to read, and Yoshio Kobayashi is an exciting hero to follow. He is resourceful, courageous and clever, and entirely devoted to Akechi. Kobayashi was first introduced in 『吸血鬼』and appears again in 『人間豹』. In these two novels, Kobayashi is entrusted with important missions, but he remained a secondary character, and we didn’t even get to learn is first name.

In 大金塊 and 怪人二十面相, Yoshio Kobayashi becomes the main character, he is often praised for his ingenuity and his courage, and his complete devotion to Akechi is made clear several times. He deeply desires to impress Akechi and does not hesitate to jump to the heart of danger.


怪人二十面相 seems to be the most famous of the two novels, but I liked 大金塊 more. It is a truly exciting adventure book for children with a treasure hunt and a deserted island. The part where Kobayashi finds himself locked in the villain’s hideout was very immersive and engrossing, even though some devices feel sometimes too good to be true (like the secret key that can open all doors).

怪人二十面相 introduces a recurring villain in the series, and it also sees the creation of the Boy Detectives Club with Kobayashi at his head. The Club is created at the end of the book, and the organisation does not do much in the story, but it is nice to see how it came to life. We see more of Akechi in this novel, but he appears like an all-mighty detective, who has already seen through all the criminal’s plans and found a way to outmanoeuvre him. I guess that if you are the targeted readership, you identify with Kobayashi, so Akechi naturally becomes the master and the mentor, the ideal to look up to. It is then normal that his skills should appear out of reach.

怪人二十面相 introduces the 探偵七つ道具 as well as the pigeon ピッポちゃん who plays a decisive role in the story.

The narrator, who always adresses the readers a lot in all the novels of the Akechi series, is more present than ever in these two novels, telling the young readers when to worry ああ、読者諸君、まだ安心はできません or not to worry いやいや、読者諸君、ご心配にはおよびません. We are even told at strategic moments to put down the book for a second and try to figure out the solution by ourselves.

Overall, these two books share a lot of similarities with the other books, but while certain scenes and tricks started to feel very repetitive in the regular series, the change of protagonist and Kobayashi’s resourceful personality give them a fresh feel, and I am happy to read them.

If you are interested in reading the Kogoro Akechi series, the books belonging to the Boy Detectives Club are easier to read than the regular ones. 大金塊 in particular felt really easy compared to the other ones. There are both available on Aozora if you want to give them a try.

『人間豹』by Edogawa Rampo


Title: 『人間豹』(にんげんひょう)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Published by 集英社文庫
339 pages

『人間豹』is the 8th book in the Kogoro Akechi collection published by Shueisha.


I enjoyed this novel very much, but it is not as good as 『吸血鬼』or 『魔術師』in my opinion. Most novels of the series have very similar structures and differ mainly by their bad guy, who becomes the main attraction of the story. To make the criminals more and more appealing, Edogawa Rampo often uses features that are close to being supernatural, and the physical appearance of the characters also gives their dimension of horror to the novels.

We find all of these here with the “human-leopard”:


There is an emphasis on the physical appearance and physical features of this character, and this novel is mainly the confrontation 殺人鬼 vs 名探偵. The novel is a succession of duels between Akechi and the 人間豹 with each character trying to trap the other. The winner is the one who uses the more tricks and is able to see through the other’s plan. We even see them congratulating each other on the phone for their good tricks.


It was nice to read, but I personally prefer reading a story with a linear plot rather than a succession of tricks, traps and escapes. Furthermore, there was no motive of any sort in this novel (contrary to the previous one), and we are back to a story where the criminal kills people because he is a bad guy.

Furthermore, the mystery behind the existence of the man-leopard is not explained in the novel. I think that even a pseudo scientific explanation could have been nice, but the novel does not provide any.

This being said, it is still enjoyable to follow the adventures of Kogoro Akechi, even more so as we meet the characters of Fumiyo and Kobayashi again, who brings a lot to the series.

Sherlock is the dog of chief inspector Tsunekawa. Like his English counterpart Toby, he helps the detectives with their investigation.

Book review: 『黄金仮面』 by Edogawa Rampo


Title: 『黄金仮面』 (おうごんかめん)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Published by 集英社文庫
329 pages

This is the sixth book in the Kogoro Akechi collection published by Shueisha.

Illustration: 飛行機は旋回を終って、徐々に高度を高めながら、北方をさして速力を加えていた。p.300


I did not like this novel at first, and it is one of my least favourites of the series so far. I was tempted to DNF it, but the end turned out to be very good, so I am glad that I did not give up.

This is the 6th title from the Kogoro Akechi collection, and the books get more and more repetitive. Most of the novels share similar scenes, actions and plot twists, so what makes a book stands out is not as much the structure and plot of the novel than the overall atmosphere, and how scary or striking the individual scenes can be. I found that this novel did not bring much in terms of creativity and I had a feeling of déjà-vu all along.

First, the novel starts by telling you that our villain is the worst criminal of all time, which, after 6 books making a similar statement, starts feeling less credible and impressive. Then I felt that the first half of the novel was a collection of scenes I had already read in the previous books. The action scenes where the culprit is chased by several policemen but always manages to escape are interesting to read if you like the genre, but the outcome is so obvious that they always fail to raise my interest.

『黄金仮面』 is heavily based on action, and there is little to no deduction in it. Even though Kogoro Akechi is quicker to see the truth than other characters, he does not apply a particular method to reach his conclusions and I found that the book did not feel like a detective story.

The novel also has a repetitive pattern in its construction with similar events happening several times: the criminal commits his crime, the police tries to arrest him, he escapes, some time later he commits another crime, and so on. We have several cases in one novel, and I found that this structure made the book less engrossing than if it were one big case we were working on.


Another point that made me feel disappointed is the role of women in this novel. Women only play the role of the victims in the series, they are kidnapped and murdered, they are afraid and defenseless. However, a new strong and interesting character had appeared in the previous novel, 『魔術師』. Fumiyo was a clever and courageous character, she was resourceful and played a major role in the plot. In 『黄金画面』however, the female character is treated purely as an object, a thing that can be owned and stolen, and whose voice and choices are never taken into account. I found the end very unsatisfying from this point of view.

Finally, the book did not manage to trigger any sense of fear or danger in me, contrary to the previous one which I found very exciting. The problem is that Edogawa Rampo kept saying how frightening and terrifying everything was, and the more things were “terrifying” the less I felt terrified. Instead of showing appealing things, the book only tells me that I should feel scared. Everything is 恐ろしい in this novel (恐ろしい事件、恐ろしいこと、恐ろしい犯罪、えたいのしれぬ恐ろしもの), but as a result, nothing really is…

This being said, I found the last third to be much better. Once the identity of the culprit is revealed, things get more interesting and the book really triggered my interest. I should have guessed the truth sooner, because there were enough hints for that, but I was really not expecting such an outcome. The case that occupies the last third of the book was really good and I loved reading it, even though I am not happy with how a certain character is portrayed by Edogawa Rampo. Some passages really made me mad, I wanted to shout that, “No! this character would never act like that!”, and the end of the book turned out to be an exciting read thanks to that. For once, I deeply wished that Akechi would fail and the villain win!

September wrap up

To illustrate September, I drew my collection of succulents. It’s a new hobby of mine, so I hope that I will be able to add new members to the family and keep them healthy.

As for books, I have read 4 this month, included my Kogoro Akechi for September.

『大金塊|怪人二十面相』by Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)

For some reason, the two novels in this book belong to the Boy Detectives Club (少年探偵団) series, which is a little bit different than the regular Kogoro Akechi series.

First, the Boy Detectives Club is written for younger readers, and secondly, the real protagonist of the stories is Yoshio Kobayashi, who is 12 or 13 years old. Kogoro Akechi is also present, but he lets his young assistant lead the investigation.

The stories are very nice, but they really do feel like reading a book for children. I still enjoyed reading them, and I must admit that the simpler writing style and more limited use of vocabulary was welcomed, but I also was not very engrossed in the stories either.

大金塊 was very easy to read, and the easiest read of this month with the essay by Momoko Sakura. I found 怪人二十面相 to be a little more difficult than 大金塊, but it was still easier than the regular Kogoro Akechi. 怪人二十面相 is not available on Aozora yet, but 大金塊 is.

『べスト8ミステリーズ』compiled by the Mystery Writers of Japan (日本推理作家協会)

I enjoyed these short stories very much, even though short stories is not my favourite format for mysteries (I prefer novels).

I highly recommend this book or any other books of this series (there is one published every year, this one was for 2017). The stories are all very different in style, some are more on the detective side, some more focused on the characters and their stories. One was very sad, others are lighter in tone. I find that it gives a good panel of different styles of mysteries.

As a result, I think that this collection is great both for fans of the genre, and readers who want to get into the genre or only occasionally read mysteries.

This book is the most difficult I read this month, because it contains so many different writing styles, so you have to get used to each of them, which I find more difficult than just reading an author I am used to reading. The other 3 books on this list are at least the 4th book I read by their author. This being said, the short stories were not difficult to read per se (maybe two of them were a little bit more challenging than the rest).

『ももこの世界あっちこっちめぐり』by Momoko Sakura (さくらももこ)

I have loved everything I read by Momoko Sakura, and though I prefer the essays about her childhood, I also loved this one about her travels very much.

This book is a collection of essays about several travels that Momoko Sakura did with her husband when she was in her thirties. For some reason, travel writing is a genre I never really enjoyed, but that might be because I only read heavily descriptive works. Sakura’s essays are really a lot of fun to read, she does not only talk about what they saw, but also how they felt when they saw it, she shares funny or memorable experiences and relatable anecdotes as well.

The publisher Shueisha made a mini website for the book: they published pictures taken by Sakura’s husband during their travels.

I always find Momoko Sakura’s writings very easy to read and perfect for Japanese learners.

『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』by Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)

This is the third book in the Ikagawa series, and the fourth I read (I started by the last one, and then came back to the beginning to read the books in order).

This is not my favourite detective series, because I prefer more serious and realistic cases, rather than humouristic and light ones. Still, I appreciated this one very much, the author always comes up with interesting cases, there is a real investigation going on every time, and it is easy to get attached to the recurring characters.

If you are interested in this series, I highly recommend to read the books in order because the novels sometimes hint at what happened in previous ones, and the characters’ relationships and connections are built over the different stories as well.

I wanted to read all the books on my TBR before the end of the year, but now I think that it will not be possible. The reason is that I forgot to include the three remaining Kogoro Akechi (one per month) and 2 of the books on my list are 900 pages long. I will also have less time to read in October, but I’ll try my best 🙂