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The Tattoo Murder Case (1948)
by Akimitsu Takagi
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Kinue, a woman with a full body tattoo, is murdered--her torso is missing, but her head and other body parts are found in a locked room in her home. Attempting to solve the case is the pov character, Kenzo, a medical student who is helping his brother Daiyu, a detective. But the case is going nowhere, other murders are occurring (including that of the initial prime suspect), until Kenzo's genius friend Kyosue steps in. There is a very elegant solution.
I learned lots about tattoos, especially that in Tokyo there is a tattoo museum that contains the skins of humans who had had full body tattoos. In Japan, tattoo was an art form that was much admired, though also, at times, illegal. It has often been associated with gangsters. Japanese tattoo connoseurs scorn American tattoos and call them "sushi tattoos" because "they're scattered about on the skin like pieces of sushi with no artistic continuity or coherence."
I enjoyed the book, but found it a bit of a period piece.
A Japanese version of a closed room murder. When a woman is murdered, her fully tattooed torso stolen, and her limbs and head left behind in the bathroom, is found, the suspects range from her boyfriend, boyfriend's brother, a professor with a penchant for buying tattooed skin from owners upon their demise, and an ex-boyfriend recently released from prison. The woman is the daughter of a reknown and controversial Japanese tattoo artist.
Kenzo Matsushita, a young doctor with a secret association with the dead woman, tries to assist his detective brother in the investigations, but his efforts end up contributing to the death of the dead woman's brother who is found with his tattooed skin peeled off his body.
The mystery behind not just the closed room murder, but the identity of the murderer is unveiled when a friend of Kenzo's, in possession of a brilliant mind, enters the picture and slowly, almost in the style of Sherlock Holmes, points out the inconsistencies in witness testimonials, items of importance that had been overlooked or deemed insignificant to the police, and plays games of strategy with 2 suspects.
Excellent Japanese post-war crime fiction.
This book became much more interesting to me once I realized that it was originally written in 1948. From this perspective, it can be viewed as an interesting view into the post-World War II Japanese culture - a period when the country was adapting to a changed world and changing cultural norms. The crime/detective aspect of the story is interesting and fun to read, but wasn't very sophisticated. From what I have researched, the descriptions of tattoo culture at the time are historically accurate.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
Kenzo Matsushita, a young repatriated doctor specializing in the study of forensic medicine, joins his brother, the police detective in charge of the case, to investigate the brutal murder of a young woman--Kenzo's secret lover--whose killing may be tiedto her beautiful full-body tattoos.
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I want to thank NetGalley and Pushkin Press for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. ( )