(Jukkakukan no Satsujin)
by 綾辻 行人 (Yukito Ayatsuji)
Author: 綾辻 行人 (Yukito Ayatsuji)
Japanese Level: JLPT N1 ~ N1+
Genre: Mystery, murder mystery
Pages: 512 (paperback edition)
English Summary (translation by Japanese Talk Online)
Seven college students in the Mystery Club go to a strange decagon house built on the isolated island, Kakushima. The architect who built the house, Nakamura Seiji, apparently died in a fire in his house, Aoshikiya, six month before. But then the students start dying. One of the greatest mysteries of all time, with an amazing conclusion! This is the revised edition of the famous novel that has been shocking readers since it’s initial release in 1987.
Why You Should Read 十角館の殺人
Jukkakukan no Satsujin(or The Decagon House Murders) is a novel that a number of Japanese friends have recommended to me over the years but had been sitting on my to-read pile simply because it looked like such a long and intimidating book. Thankfully the Natively Mystery Book Club decided to pick it up and read it over the span of 9 weeks, which was a more than reasonable pace for getting through this book. And I’m honestly so glad this was the first book we decided to read as a group.
Where many Japanese novels follow the kishōtenketsu style of story telling with a very slow ramp up, unexpected twist, then quick conclusion, Jukkakukan no Satsujin is gripping right from the start. Each chapter is great at laying down clues, progressing the story, and concludes with good cliffhangers (ones where you see what the twist is before the chapter ends instead of “and then they saw that thing” that so many poorly written books drop). The murder mystery had me guessing and double guessing the whole way through.
The writing itself it also fantastic with strong descriptions of scenes and great characterization. Every person feels like an individual person with believable personalities instead of cheesy caricatures who do things for the sake of plot.
An absolutely thrilling read from start to finish.
Why Japanese Learners Should Read 十角館の殺人
Jukkakukan no Satsujin was written in the 1980s so it uses a lot of flowery language, as well as some outdated kanji/words, while also being incredibly easy to understand.
For example, it uses language like「単調な波の音だけが、果たしてない暗闇の奥から湧き出して消える。」but the imagery is so strong, it helps to paint the scene rather than be confusing.
The prologue and first chapter might be a little challenging, but the story becomes a lot easier to read as your progress. A large chunk of the novel is also conversations between people, or internal narrative, which makes this a surprisingly easy read, despite the advanced vocabulary.
The only challenging aspect that some people might struggle with is the 1980s Japanese cultural customs. Which mostly revolves around the different types of cigarette brands that come up in this story (there is a lot of smoking), and discussions about murder mystery troupes.
I would say this book is great if you want to pick up/practice N2-N1 vocabulary and kanji readings, as well as learn some new and interesting kanji that aren’t used in modern writing.
Here are few interesting outdated kanji that I picked up:
体軀 (たいく) instead of 体躯 for “physique”
冒瀆 (ぼうとく) instead of 冒涜 for “blasphamy”
口許 (くちもと) instead of 口元 for “corners of the mouth”
抽斗 (ひいだし) instead of 引き出し for “drawer”
欠伸 (あくび) instead of…well… あくび for “yawn”
恰好 (かっこう) instead of 格好 for “posture”
莫迦莫迦しい (ばかばかしい) and 莫迦 instead of 馬鹿 for “idiot” or “ridiculous”
谺する (こだまする)…I had a hard time finding this one! It’s from 木霊 (こだま) like the tree spirits in Princess Monoke but when used as a verb means “to echo” (which is so cool XD)
Jukkakukan no Satsujin is considered one of the best Japanese mystery novels of all time, and I can see why. The story is gripping, the writing is fantastic, and you’re left thinking about it even after you put it down.
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