Murder in the Crooked House

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Pub Date 25 Jun 2019 | Archive Date 26 Mar 2019
Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo

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A fiendish LOCKED ROOM MYSTERY from the Japanese master of the genre.

Never before available in English.

By the author of the acclaimed Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff overlooking icy seas at the remote northern tip of Japan. A curious place for the millionaire Kozaburo Hamamoto to build a house, but even more curious is the house itself - a disorienting maze of sloping floors and strangely situated staircases, full of bloodcurdling masks and uncanny, lifesize dolls. When a man is found dead in one of the mansion's rooms, murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to solve the puzzle, and powerless to protect the party of house guests as more bizarre deaths follow.

Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the renowned sleuth, famous for unmasking the culprit behind the notorious Umezawa family massacre. Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders he will. But you have all the clues too - can you solve the mystery of the murders in The Crooked House first?
A fiendish LOCKED ROOM MYSTERY from the Japanese master of the genre.

Never before available in English.

By the author of the acclaimed Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff...

Advance Praise

"A superb Japanese locked room mystery . . . Hugely entertaining... a brilliant and satisfying conclusion." — Sunday Times (A Crime Book of the Month Selection) "Amusingly eccentric. . . an awful lot of fun. . . 4/4 stars." — New Books Magazine "An inventive, page-turning comic-thriller… not only intellectually rewarding but also a hell of a lot of fun." — The Japan Times Praise for The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: "The great Soji Shimada virtually invented the 'logic problem' sub-genre." - Guardian, Top 10 Locked Room Mysteries (No. 2) "Ignites the mind" -- Huffington Post "If you like your crime stories to be bloody and bizarre, then this may be one for you... the solution is one of the most original that I've ever read" -- Anthony Horowitz

"A superb Japanese locked room mystery . . . Hugely entertaining... a brilliant and satisfying conclusion." — Sunday Times (A Crime Book of the Month Selection) "Amusingly eccentric. . . an awful...

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ISBN 9781782274568
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Featured Reviews

This is one of the more unusual books I have read in a while. While it starts out as a classic locked room mystery being solved by the Japanese version of Hercule Poirot, it evolves into more of a battle of the wits between you, the reader, and the author. There was some distracting detail and references to famous buildings and architecture that seemed somewhat unnecessary. I also had a hard time keeping the characters straight and some of that came from the translation and the fact that this is a Japanese mystery. This book kept me guessing in a lot of different ways and by the time it ended I realized how much I enjoyed it. This isn’t for everyone and if you are looking for a cozy mystery or a thriller, this is not it. But if you enjoy mystery stories written back in the golden age of mystery writing then you will really like this......with all its quirks! Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.

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A superb locked room mystery by Soji Shimada. Murder in the Crooked House is in the august and best tradition of Agatha Christie.

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This is not a book for everyone. This is a book for those, who read mystery novels, trying to solve the crime before the main character. Why is it? Because Shimada writes his books as puzzles, They are not about nuanced characters or deconstruction of society, they are the purest type of mysteries. Here we have an eccentric millionaire, who build a strange house, and a body is found in one of the rooms. We have a classic locked room mystery to enjoy (and solve). The game is afoot!

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How did I not see it coming? All the clues were there. Mind you, they were not obvious, but they were all there for all to see. Yet, the ending surprised me, even when it made so much sense. Murder in the Crooked House reminds the reader of Agatha Christie (even in the title). There is not just one, but two locked room murders, a cast of suspects and a plot so tight that it’s impossible to put down the book. And these characters are not stereotypical of whodunits, but real, breathing people with backstories and quirks. Not all of them are likable but none are clearly murderers. The detective who finally solves the case is extravagant and crazy like a fox. But it’s the house that really made me pay attention. Almost another character, this crooked house is so lovingly described and beautiful and scary at the same time. Some parts were also so creepy that they could give nightmares to anyone (automatons, dummies and-gasp! clowns). This is a classic whodunit in the best tradition and a masterpiece of storytelling.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/Pushkin Vertigo!

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An eminently fun and readable thriller, one where the house that provides for the most masterful locked-room mystery is almost a character itself. When a high-end businessman invites a party for Christmas to his remote and purposely wonky mansion, only for one of the guests to die, everyone is stumped – the room was locked from the inside, hardly anyone would have the strength to kill the man as he was ex-military, even fewer people had even spoken to him, and nobody had any motive whatsoever. And that's just the start of it – add in the fact some more psychic investigators are at the bottom of the list of characters, and add in the Mystery of the Garden Design – and it's all just a little bit 'wow' and then some.

Which does make me question the emotions I felt when reading the denouement. Yes, I laughed at the solution to how, but the way that so much was also quite thoughtful, and in keeping with that particular time in recent Japanese history, meant this was not wholly one of the world's better puzzles. It's a really good, fun book – getting all the characters to introduce themselves (which is admittedly handy if you're not used to lots of Japanese names all dropped on you at once), then discussing the entirety of the architecture, was a little bit arch, but none the worse for that. It also serves as a great polygraph, for if anybody says they guessed the solution then they're clearly not to be believed one bit.

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This a perfect Golden Age mystery written by a Japanese.
i can say I loved this book: the unusual setting, the mystery, and the characters were well written and you couldn't help trying to solve the mystery even if it wasn't easy.
It's an entertaining, fascinating and engaging book.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

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Murder in the Crooked House is a clever take on the locked-door mystery. A small group of people has gathered at the mansion of a retired industrialist to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. On the first evening, one of them is found murdered in his room. The door is locked from the inside, there are no other entrances in or out and there are no footprints in the snow outside. The scenario is made weirder by several reports from other guests: a terrifying face appearing at an upper-story window, random stakes appearing in the ground and later gone, and a man screaming half an hour after the time of death.

The local police struggle to find any clues that are not instantly dismissed. Their bafflement is deepened by the weirdness of the house's design. The floors slope, there are unusual locks on the doors and the rooms are set out in an array where you cannot easily go from one to another. When a second guest is murdered it seems that the murderer must be one of the remaining guests, but the detectives still can make no progress at all. In the end, they appeal for help, but the person sent is not at all what they were expecting.

I found this a very intricate plot, with a conclusion that ties up all of the preceding weirdness quite neatly. It is possible to work it out in advance, but I couldn't. It could be fun to stop at a point where the author challenges the reader, and try to nut it out, but I didn't accept that challenge.

The scenario for this story reminded me a lot of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, which Shimada name-checks in the book. I'd think that anyone who enjoyed that would really like this one.

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"Murder in the Crooked House" was a very enjoyable read. It was a classic whodunit novel - Japanese style. The book included typical and familiar tropes found in many murder/ mystery novels - a large remote house on a cliff, a closed circle of suspects and a quirky and unusual amateur detective.

This was a highly entertaining read that was great fun, although maybe a little far-fetched. I also suspect that it lost something in the translation (or I did). Nevertheless, give this one a try if you want to try a murder/ mystery with a difference.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel, at my own request, from Pushkin Press via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.

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Published in Japan in 1982; published in translation by Pushkin Vertigo on June 25, 2019

Murder in the Crooked House is a locked room murder mystery that Soji Shimada divided into acts and scenes. A locked room murder in the first act is followed by another in the second. The novel challenges the reader not just to identify the killer but to figure out how the murders were committed. The latter is the more difficult challenge.

Kozaburo Hamamoto constructed the Crooked House, an isolated Western-style house next to a leaning glass tower, at the tip of Japan’s northernmost island. Hamamoto is a reclusive millionaire. He invites a few elite businessmen and their glamorous wives to a Christmas party at his Crooked House, as well as a couple of students. The chef, chauffeur, and maid are also present.

The students both have an interest in marrying Hamamoto’s daughter Eiko. Hamamoto puts a puzzle to them, offering his daughter’s hand (if she so wishes) to the winner. The challenge is to determine the significance of the flowerbed at the base of the tower. The significance will be revealed at the novel’s end.

Later that night, a female guest sees the face of a monster in her window — seemingly impossible since her room is on the third floor. The next morning, the chauffeur is found dead in his room with a knife protruding from his chest. The only door is locked from the inside. An art object, sort of like a large puppet or mannequin, is found in the snow outside his room. This turns out to be part of Hamamoto’s impressive collection of wind-up toys and other figures. He calls it a golem.

DI Okuma, DCI Ushikoshi, and DS Ozaki lead the police investigation. They take note of the house’s unusual design, which makes it difficult to move from room to room. A guest might need to climb down one staircase, walk the length of the house, and climb up a different staircase to access an adjacent room. The house is built on a slant and there are gaps between walls and the floor. The intricacies are difficult to follow, but Shimada provides helpful diagrams and maps of the house and murder scene.

Murder in the Crooked House is a classic locked room mystery. Several people were staying in the crooked house, all had gone to bed, most of them had their own room and no alibi, and none had an obvious motive to murder the chauffeur. The second murder is of a lecherous old man. This time, the only guests who had a motive were in the company of a police officer at the time the killing occurred.

The detectives are frustrated and, by the end of Act Two, they are wishing they had the assistance of a Japanese Sherlock Holmes. Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the star of Act Three. Mitarai’s role in the story is narrated by his own version of Watson, Kazumi Ishioka. Prior to the final act, the reader is assured that all the clues are in place and is challenged to solve the mystery.

And it’s true, the clues are there, but only a reader with some esoteric knowledge of Japan (and perhaps the ability to speak Japanese) will be able to unlock all of them. Most of the clues, however, would allow a reader to piece together how the murders were committed. To do so, the reader would need to be more astute than I am. Guessing the killer’s identity is somewhat easier.

The plot provides readers with an entertaining murder mystery, but the story is fascinating in its glimpse of certain aspects of traditional Japanese culture. A wife complains that her husband, a salaryman, is sycophantic in his relationship with a business owner, but bullying and bossy when he is at home. An older businessman is sleeping with his much younger secretary but hiding his conduct for the sake of appearances. The detectives are more worried about saving face than catching the killer. The murderer’s motivation for one of the killings is related to Japanese history. When the murderer is revealed, the unfailingly polite detectives fall over themselves to compliment the killer on an ingenious plan. And, of course, the polite murderer praises the investigator who solves the crime. What a nice place Japan must be to live (if you can avoid being murdered).

Mitarai isn’t quite Sherlock, but he brings a theatrical flair to his detecting style. An epilog gives the story a final twist. Murder in the Crooked House is a good choice for fans of Japanese crime fiction and a really good choice for fans of locked room murder mysteries.


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A fascinating thriller a locked room mystery found the authors plot line very interesting entertaining even after I figured out who did it.An excellent Japanese thriller.#netgalley#pushkinpress

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Locked Room…
Cleverly plotted, classic Japanese locked room mystery in traditional vein. Crooked House, sitting on a snowbound cliff in a remote area of Japan. If that is curious then the inside of this house is more so. When a series of bizarre deaths occur, renowned sleuth Kiyoshi Mitarai is called to investigate. Entertaining and enjoyable with a classic but eccentric sleuth. A solid mystery with a serious puzzle at its heart and a satisfying denouement.

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