In 1566 eight samurai fled to the countryside following the surrender of their daimyo taking a great quantity of gold with them. The villagers who initially welcomed them soon betray them and the men’s dying leader places a curse upon them and their descendants. Six months later the ringleader, Shozaemon Tajimi, goes berserk killing seven people before taking his own life. To appease the spirits of the dead the villagers re-bury the eight men and create a shrine to them. They live in peace for the next few centuries but they never find the gold they had murdered for.
In the 1920s Yozo Tajimi, deserted by his abused mistress Tsuruko, goes on a rampage of his own, killing thirty-two people before fleeing into the mountains, never to be seen again.
In the late 1940s narrator Tatsuya Terada, son of the now deceased Tsuruko, is contacted by a lawyer on behalf of the Tajimi family, who because of the poor health of his half-siblings wish him to return to Eight Graves and become heir to the estate. Before he returns he receives a note warning him not to return home as that will only cause further bloodshed and then his maternal grandfather, sent to fetch him, is poisoned.
Undeterred, Tatsuya leaves the city behind him, but death follows him to Eight Graves and he is soon defending himself from the superstitious villagers and the police.
The story is related in the Had-I-But-Known style, which I am not that familiar with, but I do know that a male narrator in these cases is unusual. As a prime suspect in the case, Tatsuya is not taken into the confidence of the police or series sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi, and so we don’t see enough of the latter, which for me makes this the weakest of the three Yokomizo’s I’ve read. There are some good pieces of deduction, particularly in relation to the third murder, but these are few and far between until the final explanation is given.
There is far too much (ROT 13) ehaavat nebhaq va gur pnirf and quite how the feeble and fearful Tatsuya has guerr jbzra ehaavat nsgre uvz is a mystery.
Hopefully “Gokumon Island” due to be published in English in the summer will be better fare and more akin to the excellence of “The Honjin Murders”.
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
Lending the Key to the Locked Room by Tokuya Higashigawa
2 thoughts on “Turning Japanese #13: The Village of Eight Graves (1951) by Seishi Yokomizo (translated by Bryan Karetnyk)”