The Devil’s Flute Murders
by Seishi Yokomizo
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Pub Date 04 Jul 2023 | Archive Date 27 Jun 2023
Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo
An ingenious classic locked-room murder mystery about the feuding family of a composer that’s perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, and Anthony Horowitz
This standalone novel features the scruffy sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi—the most famous Japanese detective—created by one of Japan's greatest crime writers: Seishi Yokomizo, the “Japanese Agatha Christie”
Locked room mysteries are hot again, and this classic from the golden age of crime presents a mind-bending Japanese mystery from the great Seishi Yokomizo, whose fictional detective Kosuke Kindaichi is a pop culture phenomenon akin to Sherlock Holmes.
This time the beloved scruffy sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi investigates a series of gruesome murders within the feuding family of a brooding, troubled composer, whose most famous work chills the blood of all who hear it.
Readers will be totally engrossed by one of Yokomizo’s most clever guessing games, in which everyone has something to hide…
“Yokomizo at his absolute best... From the ominous opening through the brilliant final reveal, [he] ably blends suspense and fair-play detection... A classic of the genre.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 61 members
"An ingenious classic locked-room murder mystery about the feuding family of a composer that's perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, and Anthony Horowitz.
Featuring the scruffy sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi - the most famous Japanese detective - created by one of Japan's greatest crime writers: Seishi Yokomizo, the "Japanese Agatha Christie"
Locked room mysteries are hot again, and this classic from the golden age of crime presents a mind-bending Japanese mystery from the great Seishi Yokomizo, whose fictional detective Kosuke Kindaichi is a pop culture phenomenon akin to Sherlock Holmes.
This time the beloved scruffy sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi investigates a series of gruesome murders within the feuding family of a brooding, troubled composer, whose most famous work chills the blood of all who hear it. Readers will be totally engrossed by one of Yokomizo's most clever guessing games, in which everyone has something to hide..."
Have locked room mysteries ever not been hot? Asking because I seriously always love them.
The writing style is perfection. Whether the author’s original work was so well done or the translator was a genius, I don’t know, but this is a book which is a joy to read for the language and style alone. The characters and plot live up to this, thankfully, and it makes for a cracker of a mystery.
Another creepy and twisty locked-room mystery by classic writer Seishi Yokomizo. I usually find Japanese puzzle novels too cerebral to enjoy, like the authors are more worried about letting readers see all the clues, than character development. Kosuke Kindaichi’s mysteries are not like that. They also pose unsolvable questions, but the answers are really simple in the end. I also like that the most puzzling part is not how the murderer did it, but why. Kindaichi is quirky, smart and likable. Besides a clever and entertaining whodunit, I enjoyed the historical background of the novel. The characters all suffer the hardships of post-war Tokyo, so that part was also fascinating, as it is a look into a time that is not widely known in the West. The cast of suspects (and victims) is sometimes too over-the-top, but I think that’s the way classic mysteries were written at the time. The key part is that readers can sympathize with Kindaichi’s young client and that the plot is suspenseful and, in my case at least, impossible to figure out.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#Pushkin Vertigo!
Detective Kosuke Kindaichi is back in a mystery that starts with the suicide of flautist who married into an aristocratic family and a divination session that results in a locked room murder. After a young woman hires the detective to look into her father's suicide, Kindaichi finds himself at the family compound and a sort of seance that goes wrong, followed by a murder in locked room. Before the end of the investigation, more people are dead as he tries to suss out an intricate plan and sordid history.
Writing-wise, this was as good and compelling as the other books I've read in Yokomizo's series. I did find myself lost for awhile in the middle, as the investigation leaves the premises as Kindaichi goes searching for various people to fill in missing bits of information. The hunt took longer than it needed to, only divulging tidbits of answers one by one, and dragged down what wasn't that long of a book. However, once Kindaichi started putting the puzzle pieces together, the narrative picked up again and resulted in a complex but intriguing solution. Not my favorite of the three books I've read in the series, but still enjoyable. 3.5 stars rounded to 4.
With many thanks to Pushkin Press, I’ve become enamored of the classic Japanese mysteries that they have been publishing, many seeing their first appearance in English. Their new volume, The Devil’s Flute Murders, may be one of the best Japanese crime novels I’ve ever read.
Set in post WW2 Japan, a locked room murder (I freely admit to loving the sub genre) has occurred. Kosuki Kindaichi, a famous detective (featured in prior books by the author), has been asked to investigate. But everything is not as it seems, and as the investigation proceeds, the reader is also drawn into a web of dark family secrets. I was completely sucked into the incredibly complex plotting, and just loved following Kindaichi’s investigative trials and tribulations.
My thanks to Pushkin Press and to Netgalley for providing an ARC of the book.
"The Devil's Flute Murders" by Seishi Yokomizo is a captivating locked room mystery that immerses readers in a thrilling guessing game. Yokomizo's skillful storytelling and intricate plot keep you hooked from the first page to the shocking finale. The feuding family, the brooding composer, and the chilling devil's flute symbol all add layers of intrigue to this mind-bending Japanese mystery. With well-developed characters, atmospheric descriptions, and relentless suspense, this classic crime novel is a must-read for fans of the genre. Prepare to be engrossed in a world where everyone has something to hide, and the truth waits to be unveiled in the darkest corners of the human psyche.
The Devil’s Flute Murders is the fifth book by Seishi Yokomizo starring private detective Kosuke Kindaichi to be translated into English. This book was originally published as a serial from 1951-1953 in Japanese and follows Kosuke Kendaichi as he becomes embroiled in the investigation of a string of murders that seem to be connected to the apparent suicide of a composer and possibly, an infamous unsolved mass poisoning.
I haven’t read any of the other novels by Seishi Yokomizo and I found myself wishing that I knew a little bit more about the background of our scruffy private detective, Kosuke Kindaichi, as I was reading The Devil’s Flute Murders. So perhaps, this isn’t the best place in the series to jump into (although if you do start here you won’t be confused). What I did get to know of Kosuke Kindaichi’s character I liked, and would definitely read the other books that have been translated into English so far.
The mystery itself quickly sucked me in. I was very invested in finding out how everything (and everyone) was connected, who done it, and why. Which is exactly what I want from a mystery! Along with the mystery being investigated, there is very much an eerie sense of dread and foreboding woven throughout which really added to my reading experience and, I’m hoping is a part of Seishi Yokomizo’s writing style.
I found the book to be a little bit slow at the beginning but once the stage is set, the pace picks up. I do think the book overall could have been a little shorter (but I know it was originally released as a serial so it makes sense). I also found the explanation of the why and how during the big reveal at the end slightly convoluted and overly complicated.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Devil’s Flute Murders and look forward to picking up more by Seishi Yokomizo.
Thank you to Pushkin Press and NetGalley for the eARC. This is my honest review.
Another fantastic locked room mystery by Seishi Yokomizo. After reading all the prior books in the series, I was definitely looking forward to this one.
Following the sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi, it's time for another cerebral mystery. If you're familiar with the format, you won't be disappointed.
As always, the writing style was filled with suspense. Despite the high-brow thinking the novel asks you of, it still manages to be a page-turner that you can fly through.
I would highly recommend this and all the other Kindaichi books. I hope more in the series are translated into English and released.
I have read other Seishi Yokomizo books and was keen to read The Devil’s Flute Murders.
This book did not disappoint. Mineko, an aristocrat’s daughter, hires Kosuke Kindaichi to investigate her father’s disappearance/death.
I really enjoy this series of books and find the backdrop of Japan rebuilding shortly after the end of of World War II incredibly interesting. There are power cuts, food shortages, displaced people - all trying to survive.
I loved this locked room murder and it kept me guessing to the end of the book! I really hope more books in this series are published!
Huge thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, Pushkin Press, for making the ARC available to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This has definitely been the most complex Kindaichi book so far translated. If I'd known when I started reading how much I'd need to concentrate I'd have got a pad and pen out to make notes. However it probably would have made zero difference. I'm always convinced I know the murderer and I'm always wrong. This time was no different.
I won't even attempt to describe the story apart from to say its absolutely diabolical, very near the knuckle and thankfully, not particularly bloody. The characters are generally unlikeable, some are quite revolting. Even Kindaichi seems more scruffy and out of sorts than his usual self.
However I still love these stories. They are far more Christie than Rankin. Not totally cosy but definitely story and character driven than trying to shock you with the actual crime.
I knocked a star off because the complexity finally gave me a headache. The good news is that the killer does explain everything in detail so if you're still a little befuddled it will make sense in the end.
Thanks to Netgalley for the advance review copy.
Set in the 1940’s, Detective Kindaichi investigates an apparent suicide, and becomes entangled with an unpleasant aristocratic extended family with disturbing secrets. Gruesome murders follow, including a locked room mystery. As the investigation continues, the detective travels around a Japan that is still recovering from the effects of war. Atmospheric but a bit annoying with regards to the treatment of women at that time. Took me a little time to get used to the names of the characters, and the use of ‘e’ instead of ‘i’ to reflect the different accents of people from specific parts of Japan, but that is due to my own ignorance rather than anything else. Written in an engaging style, and a story that keeps you guessing.
I adore thrillers and mystery novels, especially when it presents an absolutely absurd or complex mystery. It's why I adore the Poirot books by Agatha Christie, for example. While I'm very familiar with the tropes of Western mystery and detective novels, I'm not as knowledgeable about the genre's forms in other literatures. This brought me to Japanese thrillers and I'm utterly delighted that Puhskin Vertigo continues to publish brilliant translations of Seishi Yokomizo's Kosuke Kindaichi-series. The Devil's Flute Murders was a thrilling ride which has solidified Kindaichi as one of my favourite detectives. Thanks to Pushkin Vertigo and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is my second Seishi Yokomizo book and my third Japanese "locked room mystery" novel. The thriller genre has its formulas, which you become familiar with pretty quickly if you're an avid reader of the genre. The genre differs per culture and country, though, as the popularity of Skandi-Noir also showed. Japanese thrillers bring a totally different set of tropes, figures, and elements with them, which I am slowly becoming familiar with. While I am in no way capable of guessing where the book is going, I'm already becoming more adept at picking up the right clues and recognising "weird" behaviour in the suspects. I'm also appreciating the way in which these thrillers teach me about Japanese culture and history in an indirect way. In The Devil's Flute Murders, Yokomizo comments upon, or engages with, the "sunset class", a name given to the class of Japanese nobles who lost their estates, wealth and eventually titles after World War II. The consequences of the war echo throughout the book, as the characters make their way through cities and landscapes which are still in ruins. This was something that I had only been vaguely aware of, so the way Yokomizo engaged with it was very interesting to me.
The narrator of The Devil's Flute Murders begins the book by telling us of his hesitancy to commit the crimes and horrors of the plot to paper. It is a truly horrendous crime, whose roots lie in the slow decline of Japanese nobility after the Second World War. But the true horror, as is so often the case, lies at home. In The Devil's Flute Murders various crimes come together, from a poisoning at a jewelry store to active murders and crimes of a more intimate, scandalous nature. Throughout it all, we follow detective Kosuke Kindaichi as he tries to make sense of it all. How did a murder take place in a locked room? What does the nun on a distant island have to do with it all? And has someone returned from the dead for revenge? The Devil's Flute Murders truly is a wild ride and I enjoyed every second of it. Kosuke remains one of my favourite detectives, from his messy appearance, to his messy hair, all the way to his kindness towards the people he deals with. I'm so glad Pusking Vertigo is making these novels available to English readers!
An element of Yokomizo's fiction which I really enjoy is the strong presence of the narrator. As I mentioned above, the narrator is with us from the very first page. The way in which this narrator frames the events and characters, the way he sometimes freezes the narrative to give us extra information, or how he comments upon the characters, is all fascinating to me and something I now miss in Western thrillers. While there is a lack of introspection, in the sense that we don't get the deep and personal thoughts of each of the characters, there is a lot of attention to the ways in which they behave. Their clothes, their facial expressions, the inflection of their voices, and more, it all gets attention and thereby allows the reader to really create an image of the characters. What I also enjoyed about The Devil's Flute Murders is how propulsive it is. There are constant little asides about how no one knew disaster was around the corner, how no one knew this little thing would become important, etc. It really focuses you as a reader and it meant I had to literally force myself to stop reading at 2am. I naturally continued the moment I woke up around 7. I will be reading every book by Yokomizo I can get my hands on. Jim Riontranslation is also excellent and I found it very accessible while still feeling like I was reading a book from a different culture to mine, if that makes sense.
The Devil's Flute Murders is a brilliant stand-alone mystery which also ties into the wider Kindaichi series very well. Full of fascinating details, shocking crimes, and surprising twists, The Devil's Flute Murders is a thriller I can recommend to anyone.
Will update with links on publication day.
This is the first story featuring private detective Kosuke Kindaichi that I have read, but it won't be the last.
If classic "golden age" whodunnits are your cup of (green) tea and you like to travel to different times and places while reading them, this is a rather excellent vintage. This book is a classic in the author's native Japan, and his character is beloved (there's even a manga/anime spin-off with the adventures of a young Kosuke). It's easy to understand why having read The Devil's Flute Murders.
Seishi Yokomizo is a consummate storyteller who knew how to weave effortlessly many story threads together and structure a complex and ingenious mystery that leaves you intrigued and guessing until the very end, but that never gets you lost along the way.
Kindaichi is hired by the daughter of a recently fallen aristocrat who has committed suicide, leaving her with many questions she'd want answered. This simple if unusual case rapidly spirals into a locked-room mystery that's only the beginning of a string of mystifying and perplexing and gradually darker events that haunt the feuding members of the formerly influential family, leaving Kindaichi struggling to pull the threads together. dig up hidden secrets and solve the mystery.
Obviously inspired by the best of the golden age anglo-saxon whodunits, Yokomizo offers his own take on the genre, delivering a novel that feels at the same time classic and fresh. The narrator (Yokomizo or an unnamed fictional writer) writes about the case years after the fact, with "help and permission from Kosuke Kindaichi", which gives the narrative a little of the style of Dr. Watson, though in this case without the writer of the tale being himself a protagonist. Overall, this is more reminiscent of the golden age of crime fiction, such as some of the works of Agatha Christie, and Yokomizo has nothing to envy to those masters of the genre. The framing narrative device gives him the opportunity to add some larger context to the tale and the time it took place in after the fact, and to make clever use of foreshadowing that adds a lot to the suspense at key moments. The English translation is fluid and modern, keeping the authenticity of the setting and period but (as it's alas often done) without peppering the text with Japanese words to make it artificially more "exotic" (there's as expected the occasional piece of traditional clothing, decor or object, and that's it), making it very accessible and relatable even to people unfamiliar with the culture.
While Yokomizo keeps the focus on the intricate plot and doesn't get much lost in the scenery, it is nonetheless a very interesting novel from a cultural and sociological standpoint, as he set it in a lesser known period of the Shōwa era, in the struggling and fast changing Japan immediately after the second world war, when the nobility that greatly increased in power and influence after the Meiji Restoration got stripped down of all its privileges (and the imperial stipends that ensured their way of life) with the post-war Constitution, throwing many families, like the one at the core of the novel, into turmoil. While at least some basic knowledge of the Meiji and Shōwa periods certainly lets the reader get more from the novel, Yokomizo efficiently wove the key historical and social elements into the narrative, making the story perfectly accessible to anyone.
Several others Kindaichi titles are also available in English from Pushkin Vertigo, and I certainly hope they keep translating more of them in the future.
From Japan and set a few years after WWII, this intriguing mystery begins with a disappearance of an impoverished nobleman When his death is determined to be a suicide, questions open up as to what dark family secret led to this act. Mysterious music, appearances, clues, and more deaths add to the mystery. While the murderer was easy to guess, the mystery really is the secret and that kept me guessing until the end.
Seishi Yokomizo drops readers right into the action in the opening and doesn't let up. A classic whodunit set in the midst of Japan rebuilding after the war. The scruffy detective, Kosuke Kindaichi, leads readers through a twisting series of mysterious events to reveal the truth.
For readers who love the whodunit stories, Yokomizo is a must read.
Not since Agatha Christie have I been so engrossed in a murder mystery! I'm so glad that I found this Japanese writer and you can bet that I will be reading all of his works that are translated into English.
"Ugliness of such purity and extent is actually not unpleasant. Indeed, it becomes a kind of art at that point. The corrosion of age seemed to have washed all marks of shyness or vanity from her expression, and she stood unabashed in front of guests as if having forgotten her own ugliness, even putting it on display, making it an object of awe. In a way, this woman seemed to have left some elements of human weakness behind."
Thanks to Seishi Yokomizo, Pushkin press, and NetGalley for the early release version of this book.
Good story with a big motive, a locked room murder, and a detective that gave me a Japanese Columbo vibe. Lots of twists and turns wrapped in the Japanese culture of the late 1940’s.
Another highly entertaining Kosuke Kindaichi mystery, this time a locked-room murder, paired with a countryside investigation and terrible family secrets.
One of my favorite authors from Japan and an excellent translation as well! Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Press! I like the historical background of the novel as the book is set in end of World War II. I enjoyed it very much.
Really well crafted and engaging murder mystery! It kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. So happy I discovered this series. Great job on translation as well.
I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC.
I very much enjoy the setting of this book. I thought it was translated well. I'm not sure how translations like this work but I think a bit could have been edited to be more appealing to modern readers. There are a lot of characters & a lot going on - it kind of made my head spin. Overall a fun, old mystery. If you like Agatha Christie you will probably like it
Kosuke Kindaichi returns to investigate a mystery within the Shingu/Tsubaki household. When a young woman comes to him with a story of her father's mysterious disappearance and death Kindaichi is not sure what there is to investigate but then the woman tells him her mother doesn't believe he is dead. She asks him to come to the family home as they try to contact the dead. From there the mystery grows as bodies begin piling up.
The writing style is clear and easy which is good because the mystery is complicated. There is a large cast of characters, mostly unlikable, and therefore many suspects. Another mystery that gripped Japan just before the disappearance also has a connection.
The story comes at a time of change for the aristocracy. There are uneasy family relations. A disturbing flute recording holds a clue. A creepy, brooding atmosphere hangs over everything. We are warned at the beginning how twisted the tale is. Nothing prepared me to figure it out. Read this if you like dark mysteries.
Read the latest release from Kosude Kindaichi series and I can see the stories are getting darker and disturbing. A thing about me - I love mystery books like a child loves chocolate. Agatha Christie books are my go-to when I want to get out of reading slump. Last year, I stumbled on Seishi Yokomizo books. Seishi Yokomizo was one of Japan’s most famous and best-loved mystery writers. These murder mystery follow a pattern, though the stories are different we can spot familiar elements and easter eggs from other books. Anxiety inducing writing, feuding family, deep dark secrets, locked room mystery, whodunnit make-up the book. In this book, Kindaichi (our detective) is approached by a girl whose father was briefly a suspect in a horrific murder case, but was later set free. The father commits suicide but is now spotted by his family members. Is the father really dead or is his ghost making reappearance to take revenge? Someone in the family gets murdered, the father makes an reappearance and eerie flute music (the devil's tune) starts playing. Will Kindaichi be able to find the real devil behind these strange happenings? I was hooked from the first page, the story dragged on a bit in the middle but takes pace soon after. The last 30% has one secret revelations after another. I stayed up late to finish this book.
1. The clever reference to 'The Devil Comes and Plays His Flute' line
2. Character portrayal
3. Kindaichi's logical reasoning
Did not like -
1. The over-use of shock, gasp related terms. If I had a shot every time 'a chill run down someone's spine', I would be sloshed.
2. The book is disturbing and full of unlikable characters.
3. So many characters!
Overall, a good mystery read. Hope @pushik_press translates and releases other books in the series soon.
5 stars for me! I love locked room mysteries and this was such a page turner! I can usually guess some part of the mystery but not this time. Highly recommend if you’re looking for an original unique tale in the vein of Agatha Christie. Pretty sure this will be one of my favorite mysteries of 2023.
A Fiendish Crime..
The enigmatic Detective Kosuke Kindaichi - impossible crimes his forte - is called upon once again to investigate a fiendish crime in this cleverly complex and well constructed, classic locked room mystery. With a plethora of suspects and a twisted, convoluted yet ingenious, plot this is another well received whodunit with an excellent translation. The cover art for this series a wonderful bonus.
The Devil’s Flute Murders is a great murder mystery. Tons of twists and turns for all readers to enjoy!
Pushkin Press is doing mystery fans such a huge favor by republishing Seishi Yokomizu's classic mysteries! The Devil's Flute Murders brings back detective Kindaichi for another one of the fair-play murder mysteries popular in Japan.
In this, we have missing persons, poison, stabbing, clobbering, hidden identities, and a jewel heist. And of course, lots of misdirection!
This is the fourth book by Seishi Yokomizo that I’ve read and yet I continue to be astonished by his books. I have previously enjoyed The Honjin Murders, Death on Gokumon Island and The Village of the Eight Graves. This author’s unsettling settings and vivid characters always stay in my mind.
This book was much like his others where it focuses on the detective Kosuke Kindaichi unraveling mysteries surrounding a cast of complex characters. However, I am always continually surprised and the twists and turns each story takes me. The reader is provided with small clues through out the book to help them figure out the ending. I tried to pay attention to every small detail but I still could not unravel the mystery.
I recommend this book to anyone who grew up reading mysteries such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys like me. It was so fun to try and guess the culprit. I do want to put a warning that the content of this book is heavier than the usual cozy mysteries.
Thank you so much for Net galley and Pushkin Vertigo for the advanced readers copy.
Locked door mystery! Give me all the weird explanations to these type of whodunits and howdunits, and I’ll be quiet for few hours reading in my corner. The explanation of this mystery was no less surprising than many other I read. I don’t know how to explain weirdness of it without giving away any spoilers. So read it!
What I don’t get about Japanese literature though is need to include some sort of taboo topic. Let it be incest, let it be some messed up ritualistic murder. They always have something in their stories that shake you up, and this one of course has one of those taboo topics.
I haven’t read any stories by Seishi Yokomizo and I was missing on him. He was the Japanese Christie who offered Kindaichi as a match for Poirot. If you haven’t read him and love detective stories, don’t sleep on this series. This is only book #8.
Scruffy, odd, scratchy private detective Kosuke Kindaichi is back in “The Devil's Flute Murders”, another fine golden age homage by Seishi Yokomizo.
The story is set in post-war Japan, 1947, a time of social upheaval and shortages as Japan tries to recover from World War II. The old social classes are gone, and many of the noble families have fallen on hard times, making compromises to survive. A daughter of one of these families, Mineko, comes to Kindaichi with an odd request – her father, a Viscount and composer, wrote a beautiful haunting piece of music and then committed suicide. However, his ghost has been appearing to the family, specifically to her mother Akiko, accompanied by the haunting music (the flute of the title). The family is gathering in an attempt to contact his spirit, Mineko is asking for Kindaichi’s help in getting to the bottom of this mystery. When the séance is followed by a locked room murder, Kindaichi is plunged into a family drama with many secrets and a possible tie back to a gruesome murder which has remained unsolved. Several others will die before Kindaichi can get to the truth of the Devil’s Flute.
This is my fifth Kindaichi mystery and all of them have been superb, a throwback to the British golden age mysteries with a very definite Japanese twist. Out of the five, this is definitely the most complex, the most twisted, the hardest to follow (many of the names are similar sounding to Western ears). And another complication is that there are very few likable characters in this book, Kindaichi being the exception (although he acts strangely at times, even for him). Everyone has something to hide, everyone is a little protective of their secrets and of the family. A wonderful peak into a dramatic time in Japan’s history.
I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Pushkin Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Another great instalment in the Kosuke Kindaichi series and probably my favourite one yet!
Each of these stories has plenty of plot twists and keeps you guessing until the end, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. With sordid family secrets that people are more than willing to kill for, this murder mystery whodunnit ensures that the reader is kept hooked throughout as the endearing Kindaichi gets ever closer to solving the murders and mysteries that he finds himself caught up. Kindaichi’s character always ensures that the heavy concept of murder has a light-hearted edge in the way that he conducts himself and those who encounter him for the first time, often greatly underestimating him before discovering his many talents and going on to respect him greatly.
Set after the end of the Second World War, our unkempt hero finds himself having to navigate the new challenges that life faces for the residents of Japan as they try to rebuild their lives and adapting to the new ways of life that it has bought about. The author’s skill in creating a seemingly impossible locked room murder rival the other greats of the classic murder mystery era; Seishi Yokomizo’s are always well thought-out and demonstrate a high level of understanding and creativity on his part to create such a scenario.
Finally, thank you to NetGalley and Pushin Vertigo for an ARC of this book.
I've really been enjoying my foray into classic Japanest mysteries. Seishi Yokomizo's Detective Kosuke Kindaichi is an interesting fellow: a former soldier, he is called on occasionally by the police for help, particularly for the more baffling murder mysteries.
It's 1947 now, and Japan is dealing with the aftermath of WWII and power and other shortages. Kosuke Kindaichi is approached by a young woman, Mineko, whose father Hidesuki Tsubaki, a former Lord, committed suicide some months earlier. The family, however, are perturbed by recent sightings of the dead man. Kindaichi is intrigued, and arrives at the family compound and meets the Mineko's mother and her spiritualist/doctor, and a variety of in-laws and their spouses, families and staff. Kindaichi quickly feels the tensions, and soon after a ritual to ascertain if the dead man is still alive, the first murder occurs.
Inspector Todoroki informs Kindaichi that Lord Tsubaki had been interrogated intensively as a possible suspect in another set of shocking murders. Tsubaki was eventually ruled out, but committed suicide soon after.
Kindaichi's investigation takes him through the family members' histories and motives and leads him to a town Tsubaki had travelled to months ago to ascertain if what the man did or saw there factored into his suicide, and the current murder(s).
This is a story full of genuinely unlikeable people in a family who used to enjoy the privileges of nobility prior to the war. There is a sense of entitlement in some of the family members, and their relationships are complex, and complicated by old secrets and terrible acts. Kindaichi gradually teases out the truth, and it's all uglier than he imagined.
There are multiple murders along the way, and Kindaichi despairs of understanding the situation at the heart of the family. Author Yokomizo kept me guessing and flummoxed as he slowly revealed how one awful action in the past echoed through several people's lives. It's a twisty, slowly unfolding story, with a satisfying, tragic payoff at the end.
Thank you to Netgalley and to Pushkin Press for this ARC in exchange for my review.
The Devil's Flute Murders is the latest of the English translations of Seishi Yokomizo's Detective Kindaichi series. In post war Tokyo a series of mysterious events occur that turn out to be related. First, a man kills several workers in a jewelry shop, then a couple of month's later a Viscount disappears and is then found dead miles away. Finally, there are a series of murder at the Viscount's home. The family seems to think that the Viscount has come back to life and started killing his family members but Kindaichi does not think so.
The Devil's Flute Murders is filled with a locked door murder, a murder when no one could have done it, and a chase that leave Kindaichi just steps behind the person he is looking for. If you have never read a Yokomizo mystery so should definitely pick up one. The series is not being translated in order so it does not matter which one you select and this one is a pretty good one.
After reading Death on Gokumon Island, I knew I'd be interested in reading more Seishi Yokomizo - and here I am.
"The Devil's Flute Murders" is just as intricate and atmospheric as "Death on Gokumon Island" - although its charm comes less from the gruesomeness of the murders themselves (I'm aware this is an odd thing to write) and more from the slowly dawning horror of a gothic family saga.
A viscount killed himself. A mild, nice man, wrongly accused of a gruesome murder and robbery, he was revealed to be beyond suspicion, but committed suicide anyway, after writing a song called "The Devil Comes and Plays His Flute". Much later, detective Kindaichi is contacted by the viscount's daughter to investigate whether her father is really dead or not, since he's supposedly been seen here and there.
And then the murders start in the family home, where more people than expected live - the mother's uncle and her cousin, as well as both their spouses, servants... well. There are people, is the point. Soon after holding a seance interrupted by the song of the dead man's flute, the first person dies.
Kindaichi and the police start investigating, and their clues lead them on the dead viscount's tail, researching events that took place many years before, revealing dark and entangled family secrets.
I wasn't entirely happy with the way Akiko was described a couple of times as having a fire burning in her that only a forceful man could control - even if it's foreshadowing some of the gothic family horror, it felt embarrassingly like it's saying "she was such a slut and a weakling she would mindlessly run off with anyone who offered". I mean, I get why Seishi Yokomizo wants to paint a picture of wrongness with bold strikes, but it still doesn't work for me no matter how I look at it.
Overall, it made for a nice read, even if the plot moved to a different part of Japan for a while, and even if I kept getting lost between names and relations. During the first pages, Seishi Yokomizo makes sure to drill these into our heads almost as if we're reading a report, but, nonetheless, I messed up and forgot people. (If I had had the paperback, however, looking up the characters by flipping back to the beginning would have been very easy.)
The Devil’s Flute Murders (2023) by Seishi Yokomizo is translated by Jim Rion and is a classic locked-room murder mystery. Regarded as Japan’s premier crime writer, akin to Agatha Christie, this is only Seishi’s fifth novel to be transcribed into English. Detective Kosuke Kindaichi is asked by a woman to investigate whether her dead father is actually alive. Some family members have seen her father alive and heard him playing his flute concerto. After Kosuke attends a Divination at the family home, another man is discovered in a locked room complicating the investigation further. The book includes a helpful list of characters and chapter headings, as well as a succinct narrative reminiscent of the classic detective series. Although released in Japan in 1973, this is a most welcome addition to the canon of great crime writers, as it’s a four and a half stars must-read rating. With thanks to Pushkin Press and the author, for an uncorrected advanced review copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given, without inducement.
Brilliant translation and a very gripping story. It was a bit old school, but I enjoyed that aspect a lot. Highly recommended, especially if Japanese mysteries are your thing.
This book brought to my mind a typical Christie novel, with a large cast of rich and despicable family members in which you wouldn't like most of the characters, but the mystery that lies at the heart of an unspeakable family secret is so compelling that you cannot stop reading the book, until you reach the very end. This is the second book in a row I'm reading which is set in Japan during the year 1947(coincidence?)
Detective Kosuke Kindaichi is approached by a distressed young woman Mineko, who wants him to solve the mystery surrounding her father, Hidesuke Tsubaki's disappearance and then discovery of his death. Her father, who had committed suicide, has made a dramatic reappearance in the form of a spirit and to get to the bottom of this, the family has decided to hold a divination in their mansion. This is how Kindaichi gets involved in the matter and as he investigates deeper, he realizes just how complex the case is. I couldn't guess the ending so when the big mystery was revealed, I was shocked and amazed at how well the plot was done. The only thing that I felt was a little odd was that when Kindaichi had an inkling of who the real murderer was, why didn't he take appropriate measures to prevent further tragedies in the family? I enjoyed reading the book and it made me crave for a Christie book(I haven't read even one this year).
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an e-copy of the book.