Turning Japanese #11: Lending the Key to the Locked Room (2002) by Tokuya Higashigawa (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

Ryuhei Tomura’s ex-girlfriend is murdered shortly after he has threatened toLending kill her. Fortunately for him at the time of the crime he was watching a classic mystery film with his friend, Kosaku Moro, so he has a straightforward alibi.

Well that would be very dull.. so fortunately for the reader Kosaku is also killed the same night. Ryuhei collapses after finding his friend’s body and wakes up the next morning to find that the flat is locked from the inside – so rather than being in the clear, he’s now in the frame for two murders!

He gets in touch with his ex-brother-in-law, private detective Morio Ukai, and, by posing as policemen, they investigate what has been going on, while trying to keep away from the true representatives of the law.

This is the least successful of the shin-honkaku novels that I have read to date because it has the weakest solution to the locked room element- I noted it down twice as a possibility – and there wasn’t enough going on in terms of red herrings, other characters etc to sustain the length, so maybe it would have worked better as a novella. In addition the translation seemed unpolished – I don’t know how much that reflects the original Japanese prose and how much latitude a translator has to improve a text stylistically.

However I did enjoy the fact that the solution comes partly from the police, partly from the PI and then finally the police come in again with the final piece of the puzzle. Also I liked SPOILERS IN ROT13 gur fvtavsvpnapr bs gur fbhaqcebbsrq ebbz va ceriragvat Elhurv sebz urnevat gur fveraf naq ubj gur yvtugavat fgevxr shysvyyrq gur svany cneg bs Zbeb’f cyna ol er-frggvat gur gvzre ba gur ivqrb cynlre.

So don’t start your Japanese mystery journey here, but do have a look at some of the titles that I’ve already reviewed below.

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

Ellery Queen’s Japanese Mystery Stories

5 thoughts on “Turning Japanese #11: Lending the Key to the Locked Room (2002) by Tokuya Higashigawa (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)”

  1. I obviously liked Lending a Key to the Locked Room more than you did and thought it was an impressive debut, which is kind of typical for the Japanese detective story. That being said, you just wait until you get around to Death Among the Undead. You’ll have more to say about that one!

    On a somewhat related note, Pushkin Vertigo is publishing a translation of Seishi Yokomizo’s The Village of Eight Graves in late November and Gokumon Island in June, 2022.

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  2. Like you, John, I can leave the horror tropes aside any time. But what was so wonderful about DAtU was that the zombies were, indeed, integral to the plot, not just, er, window dressing. And the juxtaposition of tropes found commonly in The Walking Dead (a series I will NEVER watch) with a typical shin honkaku gathering of a university club in a strangely designed house was charming.

    I am equally excited about two more Kindaichi mysteries coming up. I pre-ordered The Village of Eight Graves months and months ago and am looking forward to it. Now I have to keep an eye out for Gokumon Island!!

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