|Seishi Yokomizo in his final years|
Based on the other books I have read (most published in the 1970s) it appears that Seishi Yokomizo truly is the forefather of the modern Japanese detective novel. On display are all of the characteristics that you will find in any Japanese crime novel from the 1940s and onward: an intricate plot that is fairly clued, grotesque murders, family secrets, disguised individuals, false identities, an eccentric detective with wily methods, and efficient policemen clever in their own right but easily baffled by the fantastic elements that accompany the crimes. The Inugami Clan is rife with the bizarre and the grotesque, has a smattering of Japanese lore and culture, and shows more than a few nods to the detective novel tropes so well known to Western readers. The opening scenes, for example, are reminiscent of Peril at End House with a young woman who tells Kindaichi that she barely escaped three outrageous attempts on her life. Yet in its essence the novel is utterly Japanese. The motives of one of the characters make perfect sense in Japanese culture though would strain credulity in a mystery written by a European or North American.
|Matsuko Inugami takes a handprint of her son Kiyo in the 2006 film remake|
|Discovery of the decapitated head of Take Inugami in the chrysanthemum garden (2006 film version)|
The story reminded me of an old Gothic sensation novel with creepy settings, frenzied characters, mutilation of dead bodies, and bizarre murder methods employed. The bodies are discovered in unusual places like the eerie garden with life sized dolls all wearing kimonos made of chrysanthemums, or submerged upside down in a frozen lake. One of the most unusual characters is Kiyo who has returned to his home horribly burnt and disfigured from the recent war and wears a life-like rubber mask that resembles the features of his face prior to his hapless service in the war. And of course there is Kindaichi himself - described as a sort of Japanese Columbo elsewhere on the internet. He is an odd man who always dresses in a traditional, albeit shabby and rumpled, Japanese kimono and wears a beaten woolen hat, and for the most part he is of unkempt appearance. He scratches his tousled hair in a fidgety manner when mulling over strange clues, and is given to excitable stammering when on the verge of solving one of the many puzzles attached to the numerous crimes.
|French version of The Inugami Clan. |
(The ax, the koto & the chrysanthemum are
three family heirlooms that are part of the curse)
Here is the trailer for the 2006 remake from director Kon Ichikawa. One of the rare versions I found with English subtitles. Enjoy, then go find a copy of the book and read it!