I have never read a “locked-room mystery” before; Murder in The Crooked House by Soji Shimada

20190701_065958.jpgApparently, a locked-room mystery involves a murder which occurs in a room that has been locked from within. The room seems to have no way for someone to enter, so how did the murder occur if it wasn’t a suicide?

Soji Shimoda takes us to the northern tip of Japan, to Hokkaido, where Kozaburo Hamamoto has built an eccentric house. The floors slant; the tower next to it leans like the Tower of Pisa. Guests gather in late December for a Christmas holiday, as the snow falls, and the mood is created for three bizarre murders to follow.

Each murder finds the victim fallen, with a knife wound, and one limb tied to a piece of furniture. Clues are meticulously laid out, but they are for a reader far more astute than I.

In some ways, this novel reminds me of Sherlock Holmes because it is all so logically presented (and solved). It also, strangely enough, reminded me of Agatha Christie; the guests become suspicious of one another and gather in the salon with their suppositions.

I liked it. But, I didn’t love it. I kept reading to the end because I wanted the solution, not because the story gripped me relentlessly. What I really wanted was to visit Hokkaido…

11 thoughts on “I have never read a “locked-room mystery” before; Murder in The Crooked House by Soji Shimada

  1. A ‘locked room’ mystery sometimes means actually locked, but often in my experience means a limited set of characters in a setting that is difficult for others to enter. Like Christie’s book AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Sometimes the characters are on an island or stranded in a blizzard at a house or in Antarctica after the bulk of the scientists go home and leave the ones that will ‘winter over’. I saw this book and wondered about it. Might try it if I come across it because this type of story is a favorite of mine. 🙂

    Oh, and it’s possible that in Japan, a locked room tale means literally ‘locked’. Ha!

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    • Kay, your explanation makes perfect sense, and takes the definition to a much broader perspective. I am sure you are right in your expansion of it, and I read of Then There Were None fitting into this category.
      Before you try this one, I suggest The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which is supposed to be the quintessential Japanese locked-room mystery. Everyone loves it, but I haven’t read it yet myself. Interesting to know this is one of your favorite genres!

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  2. The Japanese seem to really love these mysteries. Detective mangas like Detective Conan, Kindaichi, and Detective School Q were all the rage when I was in elementary and junior high school. Makes me nostalgic…

    I can see why something like this wouldn’t be so memorable when you take away your curiously about how the criminal did it. Usually the characters aren’t compelling enough.

    Like you, I’d love to visit Hokkaido someday 🙂

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    • I hate to give a so-so opinion, yet we must be truthful, right?😊 Perhaps I should have started with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which seem to be everyone’s favorite.

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  3. Love these kind of books. This one sounds interesting indeed. I have read And Then There Were None as Kay mentions. Great mystery. I think the very first looked room mystery was Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ which is an excellent short crime story.

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  4. I have been curious about this book. I read another review that was a little lukewarm as well, so maybe I will reach for something else (or the Zodiac Murder book as you mention) first. However, I do love a book that gives a convincingly good sense of place, which must be the case here since you want to travel there now!

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