The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

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In 1936, six women were murdered in a ritualistic way related to the zodiac. A man (who was father to four of the victims and uncle to two of them), left a testament outlining a plan to murder them. However, he was murdered before they were, and in a locked room no less.

40 years later, a couple amateur detectives named Kiyoshi and Kazumi try to solve the case. A lot of information is dumped on us at first and it kind of reads a like a math problem at times, giving us latitude and longitude coordinates, zodiac signs, dates of birth, blood types, and who had an alibi at what times. A lot of this information consists of red herrings, so you don’t have to pay attention to all of it, however there are vital clues buried in all the extraneous information for you to find.

Kiyoshi talks about Sherlock Holmes as if he is real person, so I guess this book takes place in the same universe. However, Kiyoshi says Sherlock was a horrible detective and says he’s a better judge of personality because he’s an astrologer! (I wondered if magic would be used as an explanation for the murders, but everything that happens in the book turns out to be realistic despite all the references to magic and astrology.) Kiyoshi is actually very reminiscent of Holmes. He’s smart, but irritable. Obsessive and arrogant, he’s able to solve the case with seemingly irrelevant information, and he likes to keep what he knows secret until it’s time for the grand reveal.

This book contains a lot of interesting info about ancient Japanese beliefs and customs. It’s slightly misogynistic as it contains a few offhand remarks about the incomprehensibility of women. The book also seems more concerned with not sullying the good reputation of male characters than with the murder of the women.

The solution is very clever and this book kept my interest throughout. It’s more about solving the murders than focusing on the characters, although Kiyoshi is a great character too.

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