3 Things About This Book
| A Giant Web of a Story | Slightly Draggy But The Way Everything Falls Into Place is Stunning | Classic Japanese Mystery |
Another well-written addition to the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series, Death on Gokumon Island is set after World War 2 on the remote titular island whose name means ‘Hell’s Gate Island’ in English (and that’s plenty ominous on its own). First inhabited by pirates, then convicts and now, the descendants of both that form an insular community of fisherfolk ruled by two fishing chiefs, one belonging to the main family and the other, to the branch family.
Having been tasked with bringing the news of his comrade and friend Chimata’s death and to prevent the death of his three stepsisters, Kosuke visits the island. But, as he tries to understand the workings of the island and its inhabitants, murder strikes and Kosuke has failed to prevent the death of one of Chimata’s stepsisters. Is it the branch family targeting the main family to wipe out all the heirs after Chimata? Is it Chimata’s father who has been locked away after losing his mind years ago? Could it be a runaway pirate, a repatriated soldier, or worse?
Amidst the confusion, suspicions and increasing number of murders, Kosuke races against time to find the killers before it’s too late. However, despite the urgency, Death on Gokumon Island can get draggy. Yokomizo has incorporated a lot of culture here while providing us with a look at how a closed-off, clannish community of those times could appear. There’s a lot to unpack and understand in order to properly appreciate how clever and complex the mystery of this book is.
Nevertheless, I think it’s all worth it in the end. The deceptions, the revelations—they were stunning because everything including the culture had a part in the web that is Death on Gokumon Island. Plus, this book has the most human Kosuke Kindaichi that I’ve read thus far, showing more of his flaws and weaknesses than the other three presently published English translations of the books. This has provided our protagonist with new depths and definitely made the story better as he’s not as infallible as made out to be in the other books.
If you’re looking for a Japanese mystery to read, the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series is one you’ve got to try. You don’t have to read any of the books in order of publication or translation as there are no significant throwbacks in any of the books thus far (I’ve read all four of the English translations so far and read them out of order too). So, pick up any that’s of interest to you and give it a go!