Title: The Decagon House Murder
Author: Yukito Ayutsuji, Hong-Li Wong (Translator)
Genre: Mystery/ Golden Age detective novel
# of pages: 228
Released on: 12 November 2020
Published by: Pushkin Press
Source: a complimentary copy from NetGalley
I was first introduced to the Honkaku genre a while back. Back then, I did not know there was a specific genre dedicated to these kinds of murder mysteries. Since then, I am in love with it and found it intriguing to study them.
Honkaku means orthodox. It defines literary/crime fiction, which involves using puzzles and clever tactics to solve a murder case.
The first-ever Honkaku case, The Two-Sen Copper Coin, was published by Tarō Hirai in 1923 under the pen name of Edogawa Rampo.
The Honkaku genre plays fair with its readers. The clues and cues are in the story, and with a good lot of focus, one might find them. The genre gives insight into Japanese culture and traditions.
In the 1960-the 70s, the genre lost its popularity. But Soji Shimada brought it back through his book The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Since then, writers have found new ways and tropes to keep the readers thoroughly engaged.
The Decagaon House murders follows the same genre and was a debut novel of the author.
The Decagon House Murders follow a group of students who are fans of the mystery genre and run a mystery club at the K University. Each of them has a nickname derived from the famous American and British authors of the same genre. They decide to spend seven days from the spring holidays in the infamous Decagon House.
The Decagon House, with its outlandish design, was home to Nakamura’s and their servants. But one year ago, the house was burned to ashes, and everyone inside was slaughtered. The mystery shrouded the entire incident, and the police never apprehended the killer.
And now with, the students in the derelict house and they are dying one by one.
Two amateurs sleuths, Shimada and Kawaminami, look into when Kawaminami received a mysterious letter from the Nakamura Seiji, the victim, and owner of Decagon House.
Originally published in 1987, the book is one of the finest examples of the Honkaku genre. This is a debut novel of Yukito Ayustsuji and, for the first time is translated into English.
The story is narrated alternately between the mainland and the island of Tsunojima. The mainland version is narrated by Shimada and Kawaminami, a student also part of the mystery club. The island version is from the perspective of the group of students.
The island narration is influenced by Agatha Christie’s, “And Then There Were None”, and is explicitly mentioned by the students. The book is an homage to Christie’s work and the golden age detective novel by adopting the names of the famous of the era.
The main highlight of the book is the house, described in detail with a map, floor maps, and diagrams. As with other unique features of the book, are its characters. The readers get the little backstory of the students. They are detached and lack emotions. Each people have a typical personality and they have differences amongst themselves. That’s where the characterization ends.
The ending is unpredictable. The readers will wonder about the culprit, but the way the crime is committed will surprise the readers.
On the whole, The Decagon House Murders is an interesting read, and readers who enjoy locked room mystery will completely love this book.
I hope to read more of the Honkaku genre and adding some more books from this genre to my TBR.
Thank you, NetGalley and Pushkin Press, for the copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.