[Review] The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

3 Things About This Book
| Inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None | A Honkaku Mystery | Slow Start with Flat Characters |

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
Published: 2020 by Pushkin Vertigo
Genre(s): Asian Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Book Depository

The Decagon House Murders is a perhaps best described, first, as the author’s testament of his love of mystery fiction. We have characters who are members of the fictional counterpart of a mystery club the author was in in real life, direct nods to actual American and European mystery authors, plot moments inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and more. We’re also given a (practically meta) explanation of Honkaku mysteries through a discussion between the characters where they likened the subgenre to a game between the author and the reader.

(PS: According to the Guardian, ‘Honkaku translates as “orthodox”, and refers to the crafting of fiendishly clever and complex puzzle scenarios–such as a murder in a locked bedroom–that can only be solved through logical deduction’.)

Sadly, all of the above elements didn’t translate to an impactful, shocking or deep piece of mystery fiction for me. The first thing that lessened my enthusiasm for The Decagon House Murders is the almost mind-numbing (made worse by the bland prose) length of time the author took to set the stage. Considering the book’s blurb, I’d expected murder to happen within less than 100 pages of the book but instead, it took an exact 118 pages. Immediately after that, everything went downhill so quickly that if this book were an IRL ride, I would’ve gotten whiplash.

It’s also painfully obvious that The Decagon House Murders is nothing more than a mystery with clever puzzle scenarios. Sure, the deaths were shocking, but that’s it. The characters are so flat, they’re clearly just here as puppets to move the game forward. I guessed who the murderer was very early on as well, though it was interesting to know how the murders were carried out and how much space played a huge role in everything.

Everything considered, I don’t recommend this book to anyone looking for depth or complex/strong characters in their mystery novels. However, if you enjoy playing a deduction game, this could pique your interest. Otherwise, if you’re looking for some classic Japanese mysteries that have several layers to them or more human characters, you might like the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series by Seishi Yokomizo.



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