Page Count 221
Publication date May 2021
Publisher Pushkin Press
Students from a university mystery club decide to visit an island which was the site of a grisly multiple murder the year before. Predictably, they get picked off one by one by an unseen murderer. Is there a madman on the loose? What connection is there to the earlier murders? The answer is a bombshell revelation which few readers will see coming.
“The sea at night. A time of peace. The muffled sound of the waves welled up from the endless shadows, only to disappear again. He sat down on the cold concrete of the breakwater and faced the deep darkness, his body veiled by the white vapour of his breath. He had been suffering for months. He had been brooding for weeks. He had been thinking about just one thing for days…”
I know prologues are often hated but I loved that opening paragraph.
I struggled a little to balance the plots at first.
There’s the alleged murder of a young woman in the mystery club, her parents and two servants were later murdered in a separate event which remains an open case. Now there are mystery club members at the site of the family murder who’ve received accusatory letters from the original murder victim’s dead father blaming them for her death.
Did you follow that? Because that’s just the opening set up to this story!
I have to say I wasn’t particularly endeared to any of the mystery club members, all of them pompous literature students -going by literary nicknames- trying to one up eachother. They don’t even seem to particularly like one another and are in constant competition as to whom is most intelligent, though their exchanges of Japanese myths were interesting.
I enjoyed the remote island setting of the book, it has only one building, one ruin and no means of communication or escape to the mainland- perfect for creating and maintaining tension.
The Decagon House Murders was first published in the 80s and I received an ARC of the 2021 publication translated from Japanese. Definitely a new direction for me, all my previous experience of Japanese fiction had been in the fantasy genre.
This novel is a twice over whodunnit with a brilliant ending, join the mystery club as they hypothesise over the means, motive and murdered in the case of their own deaths. Will you get it right? I certainly didn’t.