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While loyalty, obligation, and self-sacrifice compromised by human emotion along with supernatural are usually components of classic Japanese literature, did you know that Kisetsukan,” aka the feel of the season, is an important concept in Japanese culture and artistic traditions and is expected to be implied upon in their writings too? Here are 7 Japanese mystery novels with captivating titles that will keep you hooked.

Japanese contemporary fiction has always been the one enjoying widespread popularity since it tends to provide a sort of comforting refuge to the reader from the real world outside and also its extremities. In a world where political unrest and anxiety are sporadic and not uncommon, this genre has thrived since Japanese fiction usually survives on its collections of history, some as ancient as 1300 years old.

What makes this literature unique is that, contrary to simply being concentrated on having a beginning and an end, this one is more of a snippet of someone’s life or relationship and is thus inspired by opposing views on narratives, time, and endings.

Also, the themes in this literature are awe-inspiring, like societal structures and patriarchy, loss, and non-romantic love.

So, today I thought, Let me bring you seven Must-read Japanese mystery novels that will keep you hooked. This is simply because I couldn’t resist sharing a bunch of my favourites from this literature, especially this genre, as mystery, is one of my favourites, and coming from Japan, it has got to be smashing, right?

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

A part of the Kosuke Kindaichi series, which began with the 1946 novel The Honjin Murders. The plot revolves around how Kosuke Kindaichi is summoned to a remote part of Japan by one of the attorneys of a rich businessman who has recently passed away. Cocksure of the fact that the dead man’s will is surely going to set off a ferocious battle amongst his heirs, most of whom hate each other, Kindaichi finds himself entrapped in a family history of bitterness and deceit as more murders flood the scene. A fiendishly intricately plotted classic, this comes from Seishi, one of the pioneers of Japanese crime novels. If you will, you will surely finish it in a single sitting, probably overnight; it is that addictive!

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

When students from a university mystery club decide to visit an island that also happens to be the site of multiple grisly murders the year before, they themselves get picked off, one by one, by an unseen murderer. So, who is it, then? A spoiler, if you will; this one is a bombshell revelation! Credited with launching the “Shinhonkaku” movement, which restored the Golden Age style of plotting and fair play clues to the Japanese mystery scene, this also happens to be the one to have influenced the development of the wildly popular anime movement. Pssst, The English edition contains a lengthy introduction by Soji Shimada, the maestro of Japanese mystery novels himself!

The Tattoo Murder by Akimitsu Takagi

Set in the Tokyo of post-Japan, shrouded in the illicit subculture of Yakuza tattoos, this one is one of Japan’s most legendary and ingenious whodunnits. Brilliantly descriptive, the murders here are gruesome; there is realism, disturbing to delve into, but oddly satisfying at the same time. A pulpy puzzle or a mindful mess, you will discover yourself being slowly but surely drawn to its innumerable threads, each more intricate as well as more seamless than the last. Audacious and brilliantly structured, this book is one you cannot pass up, especially if you want to be absorbed entirely without a trace.

The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo

The village has taken its name from a bloody legend in the 16th century, when centuries later a mysterious young man named Tatsuya arrives in town, bringing with him a  spate of deadly poisonings in his wake, Thus returns our inimitably brilliant Kosuke Kindaichi, investigating the mystery in his impeccable style. The mystery is somewhat away from the usual, conventional style, this one also incorporates what I refer to as the “feel” of Japan just after the Second World War, making this one a satisfying as well as enjoyable read. With multiple parallel threads running through, each as intriguing as the previous, it is a prize acquisition for fans of mystery.

 My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura

Foraying relentlessly into the darkest corners of human consciousness, this one interrogates the unspeakable thoughts all humans share, the ones that can be monstrous when brought to life, shared with daunting, disturbing honesty, including all possible psychological motives of such a killer. Decoding what it is that transforms a person into an actual killer, this one is chilling—frozen,  in fact, to the point where it will leave you speechless to bits! Written in a story inside a story format, this one is bleak, convoluted, yet strangely captivating too. Best consumed in one single session, peeps!

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

A fiendish locked-room mystery from the master himself of the genre, the crooked house sits on a snow-bound cliff overlooking icy seas. When a guest is found murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to decode it, and it gets more and more bizarre. A brilliant melodrama of a high-profile family from Conroy, this one is as remote as it is creepy, as daunting as it is fulfilling. Possibility amidst the impossible—you simply cannot pass up this one, for sure! A rave, um, I mean a great one, ya.

Out by Natsuo Kirino

This one tells the story of random violence in Tokyo’s suburbs as a young mother who works a night shift, making boxed lunches, brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. This riveting and complex narrative presents a convincing glimpse into the world of Japan’s yakuza with brilliant portrayals of violence and crime psychology, dousing you with more than you could possibly handle.

So, here is a list of seven Japanese mystery novels with captivating titles that will keep you hooked. I hope you liked my choice.

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