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The Decagon House Murders by [Ayatsuji, Yukito]
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The Decagon House Murders Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Kindle Edition, 20 Jun 2015
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Length: 228 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Product Description

In its starred review, Publisher’s Weekly writes: “a brilliant and richly atmospheric puzzle which will appeal to lovers of Golden Age whodunits…. As in the best fair-play mysteries, every word counts, leading up to a jaw-dropping but logical reveal.”

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 Decagon House Murders is a milestone in the history of detective fiction. Published in 1987, it is credited with launching the shinhonkaku movement which restored Golden Age style plotting and fair-play clues to the Japanese mystery scene, which had been dominated by the social school of mystery for several decades. It is also said to have influenced the development of the wildly popular anime movement.

This, the first English edition, contains a lengthy introduction by the maestro of Japanese mystery fiction, Soji Shimada.

Locked Room International discovers and publishes impossible crime masterpieces from all over the world

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 830 KB
  • Print Length: 228 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1508503737
  • Publisher: Locked Room International (20 June 2015)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01054FDCU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #153,412 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Detective fiction from both Japan and Scandinavia has a good story at it's core: satisfyingly complex. They tend to avoid the agonised, compromised hero rebel with the drink problem and the kick-ass girlfriend. This is a good who-dunnit puzzle with a straight forward style.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.2 out of 5 stars 32 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Japanese murder mystery masterpiece, finally available for English-speaking mystery fans to enjoy 25 June 2015
By DS - Published on
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The Decagon House Murders, written by Yukito Ayatsuji and first published in Japan in 1987, is a beautifully constructed and atmospheric mystery novel. Seven university students, members of their school's Mystery Fiction Club and all nicknamed after famous mystery writers, decide to spend a week on an isolated island writing stories for their club's publication while investigating the remains of a burnt-down mansion where a gruesome quadruple homicide took place six months prior. The group stays in the Decagon House, a guesthouse nearby the mansion's ruins where nearly everything is ten-sided. Naturally, the students begin to get killed one-by-one. Meanwhile, on the mainland, two other students from the university receive morbid letters accusing them of murder. However, the letters' sender is one of the presumed-dead victims of the quadruple homicide case...

This novel is perfect for anyone looking for a highly entertaining and intellectual murder mystery. It is a homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and ushered in a Japanese boom in fair-play authentic mystery fiction upon its original publication. The English translation is smooth and succeeds in drawing the reader into the mystery. The parallel plot-lines alternate between the students on the island and the students on the mainland, with both groups trying to solve the current and past murder cases of the island. The plotting is well-paced and the clues are cleverly hidden, yet still detectable to a keen mind. The Decagon House Murders is a masterful combination of deductive logic and out-of-the-box critical thinking, all concluding with what the author calls "a colorful shock."
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Japanese "And Then There Were None" that is worthy of Agatha Christie herself. 10 August 2015
By Edward J. Cunningham - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of my favorite books which I read over and over when I was in middle school (then it was called "junior high school") was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Although the numerous film versions (usually under the title "Ten Little Indians") which almost invariably have a "happy ending" tacked on it make it seem like a hoary cliché to many people, for me the original book has lost none of its power. Which is probably why I set myself up for disappointment whenever I read a book that deliberately patterns itself after Dame Agatha's masterpiece. Nine Man's Murder by Eric Keith is a wonderful whodunit, but I couldn't believe the characters were suffering the psychological terror I expected. The Ex or You Won't Leave Here Alive (You Won't Leave Here Alive Series Book 1) by Nicholas "Nick" Sanders is a gripping thriller where you can easily believe in the characters' terror---but at the end it's clear he wanted to write a horror story rather than a mystery. The Invisible Circle by Paul Halter had a solution to the locked-room mystery that I had big problems with. But this book had several good reviews and so I decided to give it a try. To say the least, I was very impressed. Is it AS good as ATTWN? No, but I don't think any mystery book can be. It is a great mystery that "gets" Agatha Christie's famous work, and is most worthy of sitting next to it on the bookshelf.

Several kids sail out to an uninhabited island where a series of grisly murders took place six months previously. They're all members of a detective book club in college, and all of them refer to each other by nicknames referring to famous mystery writers---- Agatha [Christie], [John Dickson] Carr, Ellery [Queen], [Gaston] Leroux, [Emma] Orcsy, [Edgar Allen] Poe, and [S.S.] Van [Dyne]. After their first night, they are greeted at breakfast with seven plates labelled "First Victim", "Second Victim", "Third Victim", "Fourth Victim", "Fifth Victim", "Detective", and "Murderer." It seems like a sick practical joke---until the kids start to die. Meanwhile on the mainland, a former member of the detective book club, Kawaminami receives a mysterious letter from the man who used to own that island and who was murdered six months ago. It read "My daughter was MURDERED by all of you." He contacts his buddy Morisu who has also received a similar letter, and soon the two of them are playing detective to find out who sent the letters and the truth about the murder six months ago. Can they find out who's responsible before their friends are all dead on the island?

Considering how well known this story is, I found myself genuinely surprised at the unique twists taken in this book. It's not a coincidence that one of the kids on the island has the nickname "Ellery Queen", because I believe that his work as much as Agatha Christie specifically influenced this novel. Specifically, The Egyptian Cross Mystery. (When characters talk about "this being your typical 'headless corpse'" they are referring to this book.) Also as in Ellery Queen, things which seem to be the act of a homicidal lunatic actually have a very sane reason behind them. At the end, when the murderer and their plans are finally revealed, I think the reader will be as surprised as I was by why things took place. While this is less of a "whodunit" than "Nine Man's Murder" there are clues left which point in the direction of the killer which the astute reader might be able to catch. (I missed them. :( )

It would not be right for me to overlook the work of translator Ho-Ling Wong. He not only had a steep language barrier to overcome to make this book available for English-language readers, but a cultural one as well. For example, when "Ellery" tells two riddle that rely on knowledge of Japanese "kanji" to get the joke, Wong tells a new joke that relies on English wordplay while explaining the original in footnotes. My only quibble with his translation is his decision to render Japanese names with the surname or family name first. I know this is how names are actually written in Japanese, but unlike China, Japanese people usually reverse the names into Western format whenever the names are written or spoken in English. Still, it's a minor quibble. The revelation of the killer is stunning surprise, and Wong formats the book so that this takes place at the very bottom of a page.

Perhaps the best compliment that I can give is that like ATTWN, I found myself still thinking about this book for several days after I finished reading it. Mystery fans should be grateful to Locked Room International publisher John Pugmire for making this available to English-speaking mystery fans. Although it won't be published by him, because of this book I am looking forward to reading "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders" by Soji Shimada which will be republished in English come September. Shimada wrote the introduction to this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation of a Japanese mystery; well-worth reading! 22 July 2015
By Patrick - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A group of people is stuck on an island, with no way off. Stuck on the island with them is a mad, cunning killer, determined to pick off the group members one by one. It’s a race against time, a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. No, I’m not talking about Agatha Christie’s "And Then There Were None". Rather, I’m talking about a recently-published translation of a Japanese detective story: "The Decagon House Murders".

The titular Decagon House is, of course, shaped like a decagon, and the island upon which it sits was recently the site of a gruesome series of murders. Naturally, a university’s mystery club (modelled on such a club at Kyoto University) decides the island is a great place for a club excursion. Thus the members meet up, each of them known by a pseudonym taken from one of the great Western Golden Age writers: Agatha, Orczy, Van Dine, Leroux, Ellery, Carr, and Poe. It doesn’t take long for murder to occur, and as the body count rises, the list of suspects gets shorter and shorter…

Locked Room International has become known in recent years for its work in the locked-room/impossible-crime subgenre, especially when it comes to publishing the work of Paul Halter in English. With its publication of Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, however, LRI has taken a bit of a different step from the usual. The novel was originally published in Japanese in 1987, and was credited with helping to resurrect the Golden-Age style detective story in Japan (the official term for this being "honkaku"). Another book that helped this resurgence was "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders" by Soji Shimada. Shimada played a big role in the success of Ayatsuji’s book – he promoted it upon its initial publication in Japan, and he now has fittingly written the introduction to this English translation.

This translation comes to you courtesy of Ho-Ling Wong, who must be commended for his translation of The Decagon House Murders – it is eminently readable. The prose style is easily digestible, and it made for really compelling, page-turning reading. I was genuinely excited to get further along in the book.

From what I can tell, Yukito Ayatsuji has minimal interest in character development in this book. What propels the book is the plot, and so the characters are drawn in a few hasty brush strokes. Agatha is the popular, pretty girl. Orczy is the not-so-pretty wallflower who likes to retreat into her inner world of fantasy. Ellery has a brilliant intellect, but is extraordinarily pompous (much like the early incarnations of Ellery Queen in that respect!). And so on. When this style works, I really admire this – you get what you need out of characterization, and no more. What fuels interest is the plot.

And boy, oh boy, is this plot ever a sweet one! "The Decagon House Murders" must deal with the example that Agatha Christie left behind. Simply recycling her ending will not do. Ayatsuji found an excellent way of handling this problem. Simply put, this is a stunner of a plot, with an ending which I simply could not believe when it was first revealed. When I put the book down, I realized that I had just read a book which rivals "The Tokyo Zodiac Murders" for sheer audacity and ingenuity.

Indeed, now that I’ve read it, I have to say that "The Decagon House Murders" is a serious contender for my favourite Japanese mystery. It has everything I want in a mystery. It left me satisfied with what I’d read, and eager to read more. I sincerely hope that this publication signals more to come in English from the Japanese honkaku school – you can count on me being at the front of the line waiting for more books like this.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quality Homage that May Just Feel Too Old Fashioned For Some 25 December 2016
By Paul G. Bens, Jr. - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Definitely an homage to the great murder mystery classics. At the beginning readers may have a hard time following all the different characters (and the dialog tags which can prove a bit confusing at first), but if you hang in there with it, it turns into a very compelling murder mystery.

I was a bit put off by the use of Western mystery writer names as nicknames as it definitely presents the story as more western than Japanese and I was hoping for more of a murder mystery set in Japan. While set in Japan, it reads very much like a regular western mystery and would read more like America or Britain than Japan except for the occasional reference. But then again, that was rather the point. So I can't fault the book for accomplishing exactly what it set out to do.

Plenty of red herrings....plenty of guessing. I don't know that one could genuinely figure it out as one is going along, but the final reveal....everything fits exactly.

I will say, there was one glaring reveal I missed very near the end that should have been obvious to me, but by that time I had been misdirected so well that I skimmed over it and found myself a bit lost in the explanation. Hint: Pay attention to the newspaper clippings.

All in all, a very enjoyable read and though I usually can figure out the answers in most fiction, this one had me stumped until the end (and, yet, it all makes so much sense that I feel a bit of a dunce for not figuring it out).

If you're looking for a good-old murder mystery in the form of the great works by Christie and the like, this is definitely for you. For some, it may feel far too old-fashioned but it is, after all, an homage.

Oh...and if the epilogue doesn't make sense to you, re-read the prologue and it will.

EDITED TO ADD: A quality translation to boot. I wish the person who translated this was contracted to translate Keigo Higashino's works as the translations of his works are dreadful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's "Okay" 15 October 2015
By Douglas J. Bassett - Published on
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A group of Japanese mystery enthusiasts go to a deserted island for holiday and are picked off one by one in a "And Then There Were None"scenario. Self-concious homage to traditional mysteries is self-conscious, with classic scenarios (some of which are even named, like characters describing themselves as "armchair detectives" and the like), characters named after famous detective writers, and important reveals at the end. Historically important, and Ayatsuji's obvious enthusiasm for the genre makes it a hard book to dislike, but the main problem is that the villain is very obvious right from the start -- which is death to these kind of stories. (For those who've read this, ask yourself this: given the contrived situation these characters find themselves in, who is the most logical, likely person to be doing all this stuff? Yeah, it's that person.)

To be fair, there is one small effective reveal and one large effective reveal at the climax which pleased me immensely. (The large reveal in particular is interesting as it could only work in a book. There's no way to effectively visually present it.) Decagon is "alright", probably best for hardcore fans who will enjoy the elaborate homage more than the somewhat obvious plot.