Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

The Decagon House Murders

by Yukito Ayatsuji

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
323347,362 (3.38)1



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 1 mention

Showing 3 of 3
When a group of students from a Japanese university, all part of a mystery fiction club, move into the Decagon House for a week, they think it is simply to visit and understand the site where a notorious multiple murder occurred the year previously. But as they start dying one by one, they begin to realize somewhere on the island there is once again a murderer.

This is such a clever, gripping read! It reads as a Japanese homage of sorts to one of my all-time favorite books, And Then There Were None (a muse the book readily has the characters themselves acknowledge). This is a book that is scary, suspenseful, and surprising. I could not put this book down, and read it in less than a day. And I never saw the ending coming, it absolutely blew my mind.

I just wish that more of Yukito Ayatsuji's books were translated into English! I would read more in a heartbeat.

I studied Japanese literature in college (including a Japanese Horror class), and it was a wonderful treat to return to something I had read a lot of and loved. And to have such a great take on my second favorite book of all time just made it even better. I definitely recommend this book. ( )
  seasonsoflove | May 28, 2017 |
The one other book by Ayatsuji that I'd read, Another, was interesting enough that, when I heard The Decagon House Murders (originally published in 1987) had been translated, I knew I wanted to read it. In some ways it turned out to be better than Another, but in some ways it was worse.

In The Decagon House Murders, we have a setup in which seven friends who are all part of their university's Mystery Club decide to spend a week on Tsunojima Island. They stay in the Decagon House, a house built in a decagonal shape. It had been designed by the island's previous owner Nakamura Seiji (the translator left all Japanese names in their original order).

Just as Seiji had designed the Decagon House so that it and everything in it, including the mugs in the kitchen, was decagon-shaped, so had he also designed the Blue Mansion. It and everything inside it had been entirely blue. However, it had burned down a while ago. The way the story went, Nakamura Seiji's gardener had killed Seiji's wife and cut off her hand, then killed Seiji and a servant couple that lived in the house, and then burned the entire house down. The gardener had never been found. The Mystery Club thought it might be interesting to stay on an island where such a thing had occurred, just a harmless thrill. However, on the second day they discover seven plastic plates with “The First Victim,” “The Second Victim,” “The Third Victim,” “The Fourth Victim,” “The Last Victim,” “The Detective,” and “The Murderer” painted on them.

Meanwhile, Kawaminami, a former member of the Murder Club, has received a strange letter claiming that Nakamura Chiori had been murdered by “all of you.” Chiori, another Murder Club member, had died over a year ago, from a combination of alcohol poisoning and a bad heart. Kawaminami learns that another club member got a similar letter, prompting him to begin investigating. Was it really sent by Nakamura Seiji, Chiori's father? And if he's still alive, then what really happened in the Blue Mansion?

This book took ages to become interesting. The little plastic plates didn't actually appear until about a third of the way through. The first half of the book was all about setting the stage and introducing the characters, most of whom I kept mixing up. The only ones I was able to easily remember were Orczy and Agatha (all the Murder Club members had literary nicknames), and that was primarily because they were the only women.

If I hadn't pushed myself, I probably would have given up before the second half, when things finally started heating up. The beginning of the book referenced Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, and there were several similarities between that book and this one. The would-be murderer put his confession in a bottle and threw it in the sea, the Murder Club was trapped on an island with no way off and no rescue coming anytime soon, and the plates functioned like the little porcelain figures in Christie's story, letting the characters know that another person had been killed.

However, as the story progressed, I started to wonder if the reference was actually a red herring. Was Nakamura Seiji really still alive? Was he hiding on the island, murdering those he believed had forced his daughter to drink herself to death? Or was Nakamura Seiji's brother really the one behind it all, somehow murdering people on the island despite speaking with Kawaminami, Morisu (a friend of Kawaminami's and another Murder Club member), and Shimada (a friend of Nakamura Seiji's brother)? I already knew from reading Another that Ayatsuji wasn't above cheating a bit, so it was quite possible he had twisted certain details to suit the story.

I didn't see the ending coming at all, and I'm not sure it would have been possible to deduce it, even though Ayatsuji sprinkled hints here and there. However, unlike in Another, I wasn't left feeling that he'd cheated – that's why I said that, in some respects, this book was better than Another. Another had a more interesting setup from start to finish, but The Decagon House Murders was more cleverly constructed. One particular revelation near the end had me flipping back to earlier passages, trying to find a point at which Ayatsuji had lied to the reader or otherwise messed up, but it actually all fit together very nicely. Although, dang, the murderer probably came very close to dying along with everyone else at certain points.

All in all, I'm glad I read this, even though the first half was a bit of a chore to get through. It was slightly dated - no cell phones, no Internet, and several mentions of few people having word processors of their own - but that aspect didn't interfere with my enjoyment of it. It was a fascinating mystery, and I liked that Ayatsuji opted to bring up the confession in a bottle again at the end.


The book begins with an introduction by Shimada Soji, which discusses some of the history of Japanese mysteries, as well as The Decagon House Murders (which was Ayatsuji's debut novel) and its reception.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Oct 31, 2015 |
Originally published in 1987, Yukito Ayatsuji's debut novel The Decagon House Murders is credited with sparking a renaissance in Japanese honkaku mystery fiction, a subgenre of classic detective fiction emphasizing logic and fair play. The novel was translated into English by Ho-Ling Wong (the text based off of the Japanese edition from 2007) and released in 2015 thanks to the efforts of Locked Room International, a group which works to publish translations of novels featuring locked room mysteries and impossible crimes. The English edition of The Decagon House Murders also includes an introduction written by Japanese mystery author Soji Shimada, which places the novel within the historical context of Japanese and world mystery fiction, as well as a brief essay by the translator. It was only after reading The Decagon House Murders that I realized why Ayatsuji's name seemed so familiar to me—he wrote the horror mystery novel Another which was also recently translated and which received both a manga and an anime adaptation. Ayatsuji also happens to be the husband of Fuyumi Ono, the creator of The Twelve Kingdoms which I greatly enjoy.

Located on the currently uninhabited island of Tsunojima is the Decagon House, a peculiar building designed by the eccentric architect Seiji Nakamura, a man believed to have committed a series of murders on the island before taking his own life. The house, the island, and their history provides the perfect setting for some of the more accomplished members of a university mystery club to relax and find some inspiration for their writing during the break before classes resume. But what most of the group doesn't realize is that Seiji Nakamura was the father of Chiori Nakamura, another club member who recently died as the result of one of their drinking parties. Chiori had a preexisting health condition, but at least one person feels that the club is responsible for her death. On the mainland members are receiving ominous and threatening letters signed with the name Seiji Nakamura and on the island one person after another dies under strange circumstances, and no one but the murderer knows killer's identity.

The focus of The Decagon House Murders is definitely on its mystery. Character development in the novel is limited, enough to distinguish the individual players and to establish some of their back stories, but not so much that the reader really gets to know them as people. The murderer, whose motivations and meticulous schemes are eventually revealed, is the person who has the most depth as a character. Although there are twists to the story, Ayatsuji's writing style is likewise straightforward and clean, lacking in heavy description or embellishments. Distraction is kept to a minimum as the facts of the case are laid out one after another, allowing readers the chance to pick up on clues and develop their own theories before everything is explained. At the same time, the members of the group trapped together on the island are themselves struggling to come up with their own solutions before they all end up dead. Ultimately, The Decagon House Murders is primarily about the murderous plot and it its execution.

Ayatsuji's decision to make a large part of the cast of The Decagon House Murders members of a mystery club is a brilliant one. They are all well-versed in how similar crimes play out in fiction, but now they are faced with an increasingly deadly reality where those rules and expectations don't necessarily apply; even though they know the possibilities, they can't anticipate what will actually happen. I, too, am fairly familiar with many of the tropes and tricks used in mysteries about seemingly impossible crimes, however The Decagon House Murders still managed to surprise and satisfy me with its clever twists. I also particularly liked the narrative structure of the novel. At first the chapters alternate between the developing situation on the island and a related investigation occurring on the mainland, but eventually the two connected storylines merge together for the novel's big reveal. The Decagon House Murders is apparently the first volume in a series of mysteries involving buildings designed by Seiji Nakamura. I have no idea if there are any plans to translate the others, but I would certainly be interested in reading them.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Sep 14, 2015 |
Showing 3 of 3
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yukito Ayatsujiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shimada, SojiIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wong, Ho-LingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
In its starred review, Publisher’s Weekly writes: “a brilliant and richly atmospheric puzzle which will appeal to lovers of Golden Age whodunits… As in the best fair-play mysteries, every word counts, leading up to a jaw-dropping but logical reveal.”

Students from a university mystery club decide to visit an island which was the site of a grisly multiple murder the year before. Predictably, they get picked off one by one by an unseen murderer. Is there a madman on the loose? What connection is there to the earlier murders? The answer is a bombshell revelation which few readers will see coming.

The Decagon House Murders is a milestone in the history of detective fiction. Published in 1987, it is credited with launching the shinhonkaku movement which restored Golden Age style plotting and fair-play clues to the Japanese mystery scene, which had been dominated by the social school of mystery for several decades. It is also said to have influenced the development of the wildly popular anime movement.

This, the first English edition, contains a lengthy introduction by the maestro of Japanese mystery fiction, Soji Shimada.

Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
8 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.38)
2.5 3
3 3
3.5 3
4 3
5 1

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 117,017,715 books! | Top bar: Always visible