kosuke kindaichi, a consulting detective

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Before recording the strange history that follows, I felt I ought to take a look at the house where such a gruesome murder was committed. Accordingly, one afternoon in early spring, I set off, walking stick in hand, for a stroll around the infamous residence. …
This was no ordinary murder. The perpetrator had scrupulously planned the whole ghastly deed. What’s more, it was worthy of the label “Locked Room Murder Mystery”.

from: The Honjin Murders

Family Affairs and Abysses

To begin with … there is a narrator who not only reports what happens, but also informs us about the background, the site, the past and any events of the past relying to the murder case resp. all the murders and cruel events of the present. Sometimes it seems that the narrator is an alter ego of the author. (Of course: it’s always fiction!)

Coming to the site and the main actors … (so far I can see from the few novels translated into English resp. German)

It’s always in the countryside although the investigator lives in the capital of Japan. In the countryside …

There is a family, a vast family with a patriarch, wifes, sons and daughters, grandchildren. There are brothers and sisters, there are half-brothers and half-sisters – and most of them are married. Also there are extramarital affairs having created offspring. Alongside there is another family, also maybe a vast family, and there are tensions to the point of open or hidden hostility. What might have happened in the past is suddenly important – especially when a desire for revenge has time to grow.

There is an estate, a luxury estate, where most of the family members live. Of course there are other estates around, maybe somewhat less opulent, maybe even decrepit. It generally shows where the money is at home – and where it has vanished into thin air during the last years or decades resulting in sometimes humiliating interdependencies.

Often there is a last will with some strange requirements cutting out family members from the inheritance. Sometimes it’s also sufficient if a patriarch makes some decisions involving special relatives or cutting them out. Plans for the future quickly go down the drain. This always results in trouble, bad moods, jealousy, hidden agendas …

Then there is a murder – out of the blue it seems at first glance. It’s always a sophisticated murder. Somebody is fed up with everything and plans a coup. Of course in the following there are more murders, collateral damages etc.

The police is without any clue. There are alibis, weak alibis, strong alibis – all of them tend to crumble away when the next cruelty is unveiled. Then suddenly a young man – or a middle-aged guy – arrives, no professional police investigator, but an amateur who is interested in fishing around at the site, among the families.

This amateur solves the case by deduction, only by deduction.

If you are familiar with the novels of Agatha Christie and her contemporary authors all this seems rather familiar. However, the site isn’t any lovely English countryside, but Japan. So only by moving the site into a strange, enigmatic country, far away from Europe, a special suspense factor comes in. The family structures and affairs may be the same as in English detective stories, but the social environment, the culture, the society and its ranking are far from European experience.

Kosuke Kindaichi is the young man who starts a career as a consulting detective by help of a mentor. He is unimpressive and tends to stuttering when excited. However, he has a sharp wit and notices lots of tiny details which he uses to form a picture of the murder, the people involved, the environment leading him to unmask the evildoer and the hidden motives.

It took Kosuke Hidaichi some decades to arrive in Europe i. e. to get translated into English. For now there are only very few of his adventures and cases available – maybe soon more will come. It’s classic comfort crime fiction – start reading when you need some hours of chilling out and drifting into a strange world.

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a faint cold fear thrills through my veins ... william shakespeare