Thanks to my project of reading all the available winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, I have discovered a lot of authors these past two years. Recently, I have decided to take a break in the prize in order to explore some of these authors’ catalogue.
I thought I would share here some of my favourite so far.
Shoji Yuki (結城昌治): Sergeant Gohara series [1959-1961].
The book I read for the prize is a collection of short stories that show the connexions between the police and the yakuzas, how younger generations and veterans differ, etc. As someone who loves the police procedural sub-genre, I decided to read more books by this author and chose the first series created by Shoji Yuki: Sergeant Gohara series.
While 夜の終る時 is rather austere and serious, the Sergeant Gohara series is more humorous, but still delivers serious plots and engrossing investigations. The three novels of the series I have read are all based on considering each and every possibility, making hypotheses, questioning suspects and witnesses, and checking out alibis and motives. It also leaves room for the reader to participate actively and try to find the solution. Overall, the Sergeant Gohara series has been a nice discovery!
Takao Tsuchiya (土屋隆夫): Prosecutor Chigusa series [1963-1989].
There are five books in this series, but unfortunately, only the first three novels are available digitally (they are all out of print and difficult to buy from outside Japan). The first novel is the one who won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and I remember being impressed by it. I read the following two and found them equally good.
Similarly to the Sergeant Gohara series, we see Prosecutor Chigusa discussing the case with police officers, taking into account everyone’s opinion and exploring each scenario. It is one of my favourite series read in Japanese so far, and I hope that the remaining two books will be digitalised one day.
Kyotaro Nishimura (西村 京太郎): Train mysteries series / Chief Inspector Totsugawa
Kyotaro Nishimura has an impressive bibliography. A lot of books feature Chief Inspector Totsugawa, including the books from the train series, a series of murder mysteries that take place on the trains that ran throughout Japan. I only read two books from this series, 寝台特急殺人事件 the one that started the series, and 終着駅殺人事件 who won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award.
In both books, I found that the m.o of the murderer was too far-fetched and not realistic at all, but I still greatly enjoyed reading them. I like how the train line and timetables are used to crack alibis, and the setting and atmosphere of these old sleeper trains make me feel nostalgic. I’ll read more of this series for sure!
Reading plan: exploring the works of Futari Okajima (岡嶋二人)
Similarly to the other three authors, I discovered Futari Okajima through the Mystery Writers of Japan Award. The novel that won the prize, チョコレートゲーム was very entertaining and easy to read. It had a plot more complex than it looked at first and I knew I had to read more by these authors (Futari Okajima is a pen name for two authors).
They have written a lot of novels but as far as I can tell, no series. So I picked four novels randomly and this is what I will be reading these next days (or more realistically, these next months).