Turning Japanese #10: Ellery Queen’s Japanese Mystery Stories (1978)

Japanese Mystery Stories you say – anthologised by Ellery Queen you say – sign me up I say!

With my increasing interest in Japanese Detective Fiction buying this was a no-brainer. Originally published in 1978 as “Ellery Queen’s Japanese Golden Dozen” this contains twelve stories written in the 1970s. Unfortunately details of the translators are not provided so I can’t give them the credit they so richly deserve.

Too Much About Too Many by Eirao Ishizawa*

Taro Usami was a quiet man whom his colleagues confide in without thinking about it until someone realises they have said too much and that he must be silenced forever. A good use of a very old idea.

The Cooperative Defendant by Seicho Matsumoto

The case seemed simple… the police had a confession and then everything started to unravel. Although the style was very different, the content reminded me of the stories of Cyril Hare.

A Letter from the Dead by Tohru Miyoshi

Shunya Wakizaka is fed up of working on the readers’ column of a Tokyo newspaper so jumps at the chance to investigate a letter written from beyond the grave.

Devil of a Boy by Seiichi Morimura

Soichi Ono is a bad boy but would he really kill someone?

Cry from the Cliff by Shizuko Natsuki

Shin’ichi Takida is drawn back into the life of an old school friend with tragic consequences. Something struck me about this early on and if I’d have held on to it I may solved this one.

The Kindly Blackmailer by Kyotaro Nishimura*

A new customer entered the barber shop. And with that Shinkichi Nomura’s life is turned upside down.

No Proof by Yoh Sano*

Keiji Nogami surprises his colleagues with disastrous consequences. The most Queenian of these stories.

Invitation from the Sea by Saho Sasazawa

Sadahiko Kogawa accepts an anonymous invitation from “The Sea” only to find he is not the only guest at the gathering.

Facial Restoration by Tadao Sohno

Goro Koike, working in the new field of reconstructing a dead person’s face from just their skull, receives assistance from an unlikely source.

The Vampire by Masako Togawa

Jiro has his blood sucked in different ways by different people – not really my cup of tea.

Write In, Rub Out by Takao Tsuchiya

There is more to Misae Akitsu’s suicide than meets the eye – best not to read the introduction to this one. Another with a more Queenian bent.

Perfectly Lovely Ladies by Yasutaka Tsutsui*

An initially amusing but ultimately chilling and disturbing tale of what eight “perfectly lovely ladies” get up to when they become dissatisfied with their lot in life.

With the stories all coming from the Seventies and thus falling between the honkaku and shin honkaku periods, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting, however there was enough good in their to make it worth my while with stories marked * being my favourites.

Aidan’s much more detailed review can be found at Mysteries Ahoy! and Dan picks his top 5 at The Reader is Warned.


Previous posts in this series:

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

The 8 Mansion Murders by Takemaru Abiko

Death in the House of Rain by Szu-Yen Lin

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji – WITH SPOILERS

The Red Locked Room by Tetsuya Ayukawa

4 thoughts on “Turning Japanese #10: Ellery Queen’s Japanese Mystery Stories (1978)”

  1. I have fond memories of some of the stories from this collection but yes, the style leans psychological and sensational. I think we had several shared favorites – at least the highlighted ones are those I remember most strongly!


  2. You’re really kind to Togawa’s “The Vampire” with the not my cup of tea line. The story was included in a Dutch anthology of Japanese crime-and detective stories and encapsulated everything I hate about contemporary crime fiction.

    With the stories all coming from the Seventies and thus falling between the honkaku and shin honkaku periods, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting…

    Someone more knowledgeable has to correct me, if I’m wrong here, but I believe the decades between the honkaku and shin honkaku periods is called shakai hai (social school) with Seicho Matsumoto leading that movement. It heavily focused on the social issues of post-war Japan. So it’s very different from the other two periods, but, to be fair, Matsumoto’s Points and Lines is one of the best realistic crime novels/police procedural in existence.


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