Book review: 『不連続殺人事件』by Ango Sakaguchi


Title: 『不連続殺人事件』(ふれんぞくさつじんじけん)
Author: Ango Sakaguchi (坂口安吾)
Published by Kadokawa
323 pages

First published in 1947, 『不連続殺人事件』is Ango Sakaguchi’s first detective novel. It won the Mystery Writers of Japan Awards in 1948.

The novel is available on Aozora.

There is a French translation by Estelle Figon: Meurtres sans série, published by Les Belles Lettres.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – PROJECT – I read this book as part of my project to read all the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award (at least, the books that are available today). Follow my progress here!


Famous figures of the decadent literary circles of post-war Japan find themselves, as well as some uninvited guests, in the family house of the Utagawas. Many of these guests cannot stand each other and this chaotic reunion soon witnesses a series of strange and scary murders.

When the book was first serialised in 1947, the author challenged the readers to find the murderer before the publication of the last chapters. He offered a financial prize, and challenged by name several personalities of the time as well as the fictional police officers of his novel. And of course, any reader could participate.

The fact that one reader of the time was able to give a perfect answer to Sakaguchi’s challenge shows that we have all the elements we need to solve the mystery. Sakaguchi himself insists on that point several times: we, the reader, are given all the elements to solve the crimes. As such, this is a perfect whodunnit, which I think is quite rare. As Ango Sakaguchi said when he revealed the names of the winners, many detective novels are disappointing, and even though I would not go as far as saying that 99,99% of them fall into this category, 『不連続殺人事件』surely does not.


To find the solution, we are provided with everything that the police officers of the novel have access to. Unfortunately, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information we are given. This is what happened to me, and this is why I decided to read the novel in parallel with the French translation. The Japanese was quite difficult to begin with, but trying to sort every bit of information and lead my own investigation was almost impossible to do in Japanese: too many characters (all introduced at the same time!), too many murders, too many alibis to verify and too many clues.


To give you an example of what I mean by too much information, this is the map that is provided by the author. Floor and building maps play an important role in detective novels, but I have always assumed that they were there to help the reader, not confuse them 🤔 When Ango Sakaguchi says that we have access to the same elements than the characters, he means it literally. This is the “real” map of the villa, not a simplified version made for the reader. (I have read a lot of detective novels, but I never saw a map with 56 indications!)

But… you have no choice but to investigate yourself, because no one else is doing it. There are police officers and even a character who is here as a detective, but they never investigate, or if they do, we don’t see them doing it. As such, this novel differs from classic detective novels where we follow the investigation of the fictional detective. The role of the police is clearly to give us, readers, all the elements we need. They appear after the murder to collect every character’s alibis but then, they just don’t do anything with this information. Even the other characters do not seem particularly interested in solving the crime, and our narrator does not do much either.

This is barely surprising, given that most of them are writers. As one character states in the novel, writers are similar to criminals, not to detectives (it follows that it is the reader who should assume the role of the detective):


And the characters of this novel are not easy people to be with. Some of them cannot stand each other and make it clear every time they have an occasion to do so. They are arrogant, proud, rude and even insulting when addressing certain characters, if not violent. They are constantly quarrelling, and to be honest, the dialogues and the relations between the characters were the most difficult things to understand in Japanese to me.

This is why I made a character map (pdf) for anyone who wants to read this book in Japanese. The story is very complex and if you don’t have a clear vision of people’s relationships to each other (attraction, resentment, general dislike), then the story and the dialogues become very difficult to understand.

I did not manage to find the solution, but I had fun trying to. I wish that Ango Sakaguchi had written more detective novels…

Finally, I should add that I found Estelle Figon’s translation to be truly excellent. The text is full of pep and a real delight to read!

Korean mini book reviews #1

This blog is mainly dedicated to learning and reading in Japanese, but I am also a Korean learner! My reading level in Korean is lower than my Japanese level, but I am trying to improve by practicing. I don’t want to write full book reviews of the Korean books I read, so I decided to group several books in one post.

아몬드 by 손원평

This book is about Yunjae, who has a brain condition that makes it impossible for him to feel emotions or to identify and understand other people’s emotions. This is a coming-of-age novel that is extremely well done.

To me, the most interesting point is that Yunjae is our narrator, we see the world through his eyes, but he cannot comment on or sympathise with other people’s feelings. And in this novel, the other characters are each in their own way a whirlpool of contradictory emotions. Yunjae’s mother is an incredibly interesting character, Gon, Yunjae’s friend, must be suffering more than we can really grasp, Gon’s father is lost in a turmoil of contradictory feelings. But again, we are only able to take a glimpse at the characters’ struggles through random observations by Yunjae, which makes the novel even more gripping.

I was not a big fan of the end to be honest, this is why I only gave it 4 stars. This book has been recommended by several members of BTS, and is a huge best-seller in Korea.

Level: This book was on the easy side, but there were some passages that can feel more challenging (especially towards the end). Given that this book has been translated into English, I think that it is great for Korean learners, as you can read it in parallel if needed.

English translation: Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn, translated by Joosun Lee, published by Harper Collins.

보건교사 안은영 by 정세랑

Eunyeong An, the school nurse at M school, can see the lingering desires of people and dead people which show themselves as jellies. Some of them can have a bad influence on the school and the students. Together with Inpyo Hong, teacher of classical Chinese, she will protect the school from evil jellies.

This novel has been adapted into drama by Netflix, and I really recommend to watch the drama and read the book together. I find that the drama brings a lot to the atmosphere and actress Yumi Jung really gives life to Eunyeong.

In the novel, each chapter is devoted to a different case or a different character. I really love that the drama mixed different cases together and makes several things happen at the same time. For example, in the drama, the story of the child on the playground and the story of Eunyeong’s former classmate are intertwined with the story of the mite eater. I found this very good, as they all relate to Eunyeong’s helplessness when she realises that she cannot help everyone. In the book, these are three completely different stories in different chapters.

Overall, this book was both weird and fun, there is a lot of humour in the book that could not be transported in the drama. But to be honest, the story was way too fantastic to me, and I enjoyed the more realistic episodes more than the more fantastic ones. I would certainly have DNFed it, if it weren’t for the drama. Great book, just not for me.

As for the level, this book was really difficult to read for me, mainly because it is a work of fantasy with things that do not make much sense, and it is harder to fill the blanks. I find that realistic fiction is easier to read for language learners, because you can guess a lot of the things you don’t understand. Again, watching the Netflix drama really helps, so I recommend doing both!

네 번의 노크 by 케이시

A murder has taken place on the third floor of a residential building, a floor that is dedicated to women. Six appartements, six doors, six women, all suspects in this case.

I found the setting of this mystery to be very exciting. The structure of the book is interesting too: it is mainly composed by the testimonies of each suspect to the police, and we get to read their statements.

At first, there were interesting leads, I was wondering who was lying, trying to look for clues in what each woman said. There were also indications that footsteps and time would play a part, and this raised my expectations for a good whodunnit. Unfortunately, I felt that all these clues did not really lead anywhere and the mystery kind of sorted itself naturally, and even the final twist did not manage to satisfy the avid reader of mysteries that I am.

This being said, this was still an enjoyable read and it was very good for a debut novel. I will certainly check out this author’s next mysteries!

Level: Overall, this novel is rather easy to read, but I would not recommend it if you are not already used to reading in Korean, because the book is a succession of long monologues. It is interesting for the story, but the structure of the book makes it also quite monotone to read. I also find that dialogues are easier to read for language learners, and they are quasi non-existant in this book. Moreover, one character (the one living at 301) is significantly more difficult to understand than the others.

An audiobook version is available on 윌라 (welaaa). I personally read the book and listened to the audiobook at the same time, and it helps a lot to the comprehension. If you can afford the subscription, Welaaa is a great way to have access to audiobooks and classes on various topics in Korean.

일의 기쁨과 슬픔 by 장류진 

This is a collection of short stories, where we see people in all kinds of situations where they have to deal with colleagues, work, or unexpected events.

The characters we see in these stories all hold onto their set of values, which often lead them to misinterpret a situation or misjudge others. Some stories are funny, some sad, but they all feel very relatable and engaging. This was an entertaining read that also made me think a lot. It is one of my favourite books read in Korean so far, and I highly recommend it.

Level: All the stories are easy to read, I believe that among books for adults, this one belongs to the easiest you could find. The fact that these are short stories makes it also easier to read for language learners as you don’t have to commit to a 300 pages-long novel. The stories deal with everyday life and work situations.

One of the short stories has been adapted into a drama special by KBS. I believe you can watch it one the KBS site, but it might depend on your country.

January wrap up

The year started with an excellent reading month for me! I loved every book I read in January and I am doing well with my various challenges.

Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project

Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).

1947:『本陣殺人事件』by Seishi Yokomizo (横溝正史)

『本陣殺人事件』is a classic locked-room mystery, and I had no difficulty reading it (apart from one scene or two that were more difficult). Overall, it did not feel different, in terms of Japanese level, than the Kogoro Akechi series by Edogawa Rampo.

Moreover, the book is very classic in its composition: the story, the setting, the characters and the mystery feel very familiar if you like locked-room mysteries. The narrator of the story is a writer of detective fiction who is influenced by authors like John Dickson Carr or Gaston Leroux, which I think, made this novel easier to read to me.

This book is the first mystery novel to have been rewarded with the Mystery Writers of Japan Award (even though the award had another name at the time), and it is also the first book I read from this long list. It was a great way to start this project, and I will certainly read more books by Yokomizo in the future.

This novel has been translated into English by Louise Heal Kawai under the title The Honjin Murders.

1948:『不連続殺人事件』by Ango Sakaguchi (坂口安吾) | Meurtres sans série translated by Estelle Figon

Contrary to Yokomizo’s novel where our narrator tried his best to give us a smooth reading and made sure that we follow all the clues, Ango Sakaguchi’s first and only detective novel leaves the readers on their own to decipher a huge amount of clues, alibis, and characters.

Most of the characters belong to the literary circles of post-war Japan, they are decadent, disillusioned and they cannot stand each other. They are rude, sarcastic, insulting, and utterly disagreeable. They also have complex relationships, mostly based on desire and resentment. In short: everything they said seemed strange to me, and the dialogues were particularly difficult to understand, which is the reason why I decided to read this book and its translation in parallel.

If I am not mistaken, 『不連続殺人事件』has never been translated into English. Thankfully, there is a French translation published in 2009, which allowed me to fully enjoy this complex but exciting murder puzzle.


Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.

A book I meant to read in 2021: 재능의 불시착 by 박소연

One funny thing with this book is that I kept seeing it in bookstores, but I was not interested in reading it because I thought it was SF, a genre that I don’t really like. Fortunately, I did end up looking at it more closely and realised it was exactly the kind of books I like: a realistic depiction of the different struggles people face at work, with their colleagues, with their families.

The level was perfect for me: overall relatively easy to read with some stories that I could read without looking up any words, but challenging too with other stories that had me re-read some paragraphs several times in order to understand them.

The author also wrote self-development books, but this is her only work of fiction. I am looking forward to more novels or collection of short stories!

20th Century reading challenge

Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).

1900s (Boxer Rebellion): Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt

This is my favourite read of the month, this book really blew my mind. The book is set during the Boxer Rebellion, but we don’t learn much about the Rebellion itself (but I did a lot of Wikipedia readings while reading the book!). Our characters each play their part in the tragedy, while the Qing Dynasty and the Imperial system are collapsing in the background.

Magistrate Qian Ding and his brother were the characters I found the most tragic and interesting. One holds on to the old system and traditional values, the other stands against them, but they both fight in a world that is falling apart. It is also through the character of Qian Ding that we get to feel the most the political changes of the time, so his parts were the most fascinating to me.

I think that the book can be a little difficult to understand for people who don’t have any knowledge of the period (that’s why Wikipedia was a good companion here!). I also think that this book should have a content warning, because it contains scenes or descriptions of executions that I found extremely hard to read.

Other books

Verbrechen by Ferdinand von Schirach

In 2022, I want to read in more languages, so I picked a German book. This is a collection of cases that the author worked on as a lawyer. I overall found all the stories very engrossing, and it is hard to believe that these are real cases.

There is an interesting reflection on what is guilt, and how the law should punish criminals. Given that the law judges people’s guilt rather than their actions, it is both a fairer system but also more difficult to implement.

This book was perfect for my level, overall easy to read, but I had to look up some words, especially those related to law and court.

Currently reading

『七つの会議』by Jun Ikeido 池井戸潤

I am very excited to have started a new Jun Ikeido. I started it when I was reading 『不連続殺人事件』, because this book was so complex and difficult that I wanted to read something easier and contemporary.

Funny thing is that I used to consider Jun Ikeido more difficult to read than the average detective novels I was mostly reading. This was mainly due to the many words and concepts related to bank loans and how to run a business in general. But compared to 『不連続殺人事件』, Jun Ikeido feels extremely easy to read! Sure, I need to look up words from time to time, but that is nothing compared to the struggles I felt while reading Ango Sakaguchi.

This shows that it is always beneficial to vary the level of books we read.

That’s it for January! I hope you all had a good reading/studying start in the year!