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Most crime fiction aficionados will have heard of the “Golden Age” of crime writing, an era largely concentrated in the 1920s and ‘30s of whodunits and detective mysteries. Among the plethora of well known Western writers such as Agatha Christie, Joseph Jefferson Farjeon, Ellery Queen, John Dickinson Carr, George Simenon and Ngaio Marsh. There was also a contemporaneous Japanese author, Seishi Yokomizo

Seishi Yokomizo (1902-1981), one of Japan’s best-loved mystery writers, was born in Kobe and read detective stories throughout his childhood. He began writing his own stories, with his first publication appearing in 1921. He went on to become an extremely prolific and popular author, selling more than 55 million copies of his books, many of which were also adapted for stage and television in Japan. His character Kosuke Kindaichi even inspired a 70’s funk supergroup The Mystery Kindaichi Band to make an album to listen to while reading his novels. That’s what I call a cult following!

Seishi Yokomizo

His popularity makes sense: his works have all the ingredients that thrill fans of golden-age British and American mysteries. Steeped in a distinctively Japanese atmosphere. Furthermore, packed full of playful references to the classics and traditions of crime writing. Consequently, anyone who has read his work will be sure to agree.

Moreover, given his vast catalogue, it can be hard to know where to begin reading Yokomizo’s work. However, whether you’ve dabbled in a few of his books, or you’re a brand-new reader in search of your next compelling crime read, you’re in the right place. Therefore, below is the starters’ list of Yokomizo’s most gripping reads, all translated into English and published by Pushkin Press in the UK.

The Honjin Murders (English pub date 2019)

Seishi Yokomizo

This is a brainstomper of a locked room murder centering around a wedding gone terrible wrong. In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura was full of excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But on the night of the nuptials, a piercing scream wakes up the household, and the bride and groom are found dead leaving no evidence but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house. The murder appears impossible, yet amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is resolute in his determination to unravel exactly what transpired.

Undoubtedly, the most beloved Japanese detective of all time, Seishi Yokomizo’s character Kosuke Kindaichi first appeared in this novel, which was serialised in the magazine Houseki from April to December 1946 and subsequently published as a novel in 1973. Remarkably, it won the inaugural Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1948, and later on, was adapted as the film Death at an Old Mansion in 1976.

The Inugami Curse (English pub date 2020)

Seishi Yokomizo

In 1940s Japan, the wealthy head of the Inugami Clan dies  and his three simultaneous mistresses, three unloved daughters, three equally unloved grandsons and a beloved orphaned girl named Tamayo eagerly await the reading of his will. The will declares Tamayo the family’s heir, and she must then choose the next family leader by marrying one of the late patriarch’s three grandsons, a man from the Inugami direct bloodline.

But quite soon after the revelation of these strange details, a series of gruesome murders begins. Detective Kindaichi must unravel the clan’s terrible secrets of hidden identities, forbidden relationships and monstrous cruelty to find the murderer, and lift the curse seeing its bloody revenge on the Inugamis.

The Village of Eight Graves (English pub date 2021)

Seishi Yokomizo

Tatsuya always knew the man that raised him wasn’t his real father, what he didn’t know was that his real father was a murderous madman. At the age of twenty-eight, he discovers all of this when his remaining biological family find him and bring him back to The Village of Eight Graves to take over as the Head of the family. The Village of Eight Graves, nestled deep in the mountains, derives its name from a bloody legend where inhabitants murdered eight samurai seeking refuge there with a secret treasure in the sixteenth century, thereby casting a terrible curse upon their village. 

Tatsuya had just agreed to the proposal when someone murdered his grandfather right in front of him, mere minutes after their meeting. Little does he know that his grandfather’s murder is only the first in a series of baffling murders that all point to Tatsuya being the killer. The brilliant Kosuke Kindaichi is once again on the case to investigate.

Death on Gokumon Island (English pub date 2022)

Seishi Yokomizo

Loosely inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, this Kosuke Kindaichi novel is often regarded as one of the best of Seishi Yokomizo’s classic Japanese mysteries.

Kosuke Kindaichi arrives on Gokumon Island bearing tragic news. The son of one of the island’s most important families has died, on a military transport ship bringing him back home after the Second World War. Before his untimely death, the man implored Kindaichi to travel to his homeland. To prevent the murder of his three younger sisters. However, he lacked the time to reveal to Kindaichi the method of his foresight into their deaths or the identity of the potential murderer.

The scruffy sleuth is determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious prophecy, and to protect the three women. As Kosuke Kindaichi attempts to unravel the island’s secrets, a series of gruesome murders begins. He investigates, but soon finds himself in peril from both the clannish locals, who don’t take kindly to an outsider meddling in their affairs, and the unknown killer.

The Devil’s Flute Murders (English pub date 2023)

Seishi Yokomizo

Publishers first released this Kosuke Kindaichi novel in serial form between 1951 and 1953. It takes place amid post-war Tokyo’s rubble, in a once-noble family’s house now in mourning. Someone has found the old viscount Tsubaki, a brooding composer and flautist, dead.

His death may have some connection to a horrific unsolved crime. The Tengindo Incident, involving a man who entered a jewellery shop and poisoned the entire staff with a fake vaccine in order to rob the store. Due to the description of the criminal given by a survivor, Tsubaki becomes a person of interest to the police. Yet he seems to have an alibi, a secret trip to a far-off island that seemingly led to his death. But is he really dead?

As the family gathers for a divination to conjure their departed patriarch’s spirit, death descends upon the house again, prompting the summoning of the brilliant Kosuke Kindaichi to investigate. But before he can get to the truth Kindaichi must uncover the Tsubakis’ most disturbing secrets, while the gruesome murders continue…

The Little Sparrow Murders (English pub date 6th June 2024)

Seishi Yokomizo

Detective Kouske Kindaichi is visiting the remote village of Onikobe on a relaxing hot spring vacation. When he discovers that the widow who owned the hot spring resort had a tragic past. Twenty years ago her husband was murdered by a villain who tricked the villagers out of their money and escaped, never to be found. 

Soon after Kindaichi arrives a new series of murders strikes the village. First the aged village chief goes missing on the night of his supposed reunion with his estranged ex-wife. Then the daughters of the two most influential families in the village are found murdered under ominous consequences. It soon becomes clear that the victims are being killed using methods that match the lyrics of an old local children’s song. Kindaichi is on the case, but soon realises that he must unravel the tangled history of the village, as well as that of its feuding families, to discover the truth before it’s too late.


Embarking on a journey through the captivating world of Seishi Yokomizo’s crime fiction is a thrilling adventure. His works, rich with the essence of the Golden Age of crime writing and imbued with a unique Japanese flair. Whether you’re a seasoned fan of Yokomizo or a newcomer to his work. This guide provides a comprehensive roadmap to his most gripping reads. From the chilling ‘The Honjin Murders’ to the intriguing ‘The Little Sparrow Murders’, each book showcases Yokomizo’s mastery of the genre. As you delve into these tales of mystery and suspense, you’ll find yourself immersed in the intricate plots and compelling narratives that have made Yokomizo a beloved figure in Japanese literature. So, if you’re searching for your next crime read, look no further than the works of Seishi Yokomizo.

For other other book reviews do read Books Reviews: The Devotion of Suspect X and Strange Weather in Tokyo.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What makes ‘The Honjin Murders’ a must-read for mystery enthusiasts? 

A: ‘The Honjin Murders’ is a masterpiece in Japanese crime-writing history. It presents Japan’s most famous fictional detective to readers. Moreover it includes all the thrilling elements of golden-age mysteries, such as a perplexing murder and a brilliant detective.

Q2: How did Seishi Yokomizo’s novels contribute to the honkaku genre? 

A: Yokomizo’s novels are a cornerstone of the honkaku genre, focusing on fair play, logical deduction, and ingenious solutions. His 77 honkaku novels have given a new dimension to contemporary Japanese literature. It inspired a resurgence in classic locked-room murder mysteries.

Q3: What is the character Kosuke Kindaichi known in Seishi Yokomizo’s novels?

A: Kosuke Kindaichi, a character in many of Yokomizo’s stories, exhibits brilliant detective skills. His frequent role in unraveling complex mysteries and crimes establishes him as a central figure in Yokomizo’s narratives.

Q4: How has Seishi Yokomizo’s work influenced popular culture in Japan?

A: Seishi Yokomizo’s work has had a significant impact on popular culture in Japan. Readers have bought over 55 million copies of his books, and adaptors have transformed many for stage and television. His character Kosuke Kindaichi even inspired a 70’s funk supergroup. The Mystery Kindaichi Band, to create an album to listen to while reading his novels.

Q5: What are some key themes in Yokomizo’s novels?

A: Yokomizo’s novels often explore themes of hidden identities, forbidden relationships, and the consequences of past actions. They frequently feature complex murder mysteries, such as locked-room murders and family curses, that challenge the reader’s deductive skills.


About Keltie Mechalski

A self-proclaimed pastry aficionado, outdoor enthusiast and film lover from Canada. Keltie is based in London and writes on film, literature and anything else that piques her fancy.