Review : Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada ( translated by Louise Heal Kawai )

Plot Summary :

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff overlooking icy seas at the remote northern tip of Japan . A curious place for the millionaire Kozaburo Hamamoto to build a house , but even more curious is the house itself – Hamamoto ‘ s Ice Floe Mansion is leaning at an angle of about 5 or 6 degrees – but that might be the least bizarre thing about it . It ‘ s interiors featuring sloping floors with furniture having legs cut to fit the slope of the floors , strangely situated staircases , a floor plan which somewhat resembles a maze and the owner ‘ s collection of clockwork toys , masks and antique dolls would do much better at shocking any visitor . It ‘ s Christmas time and the eccentric owner of the Mansion is entertaining a party of house guests . Soon , when a man is found dead in one of the mansion ‘ s rooms , murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances , the police are called . But they are unable to solve the puzzle , and powerless to protect the party of house guests as more bizarre deaths follow .

Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai , the renowned sleuth , famous for unmasking the culprit behind the notorious Umezawa family massacre . Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders he will . But with Shimada , no information is ” classified ” information – the police force , the detective and the reader have the same clues and he challenges the reader to beat his detective to the arrive at the identity of the person behind this string of bizarre deaths . . .

My thoughts on the book :

As with any closed circle mystery , there is a LOT happening in terms of dynamics between the different characters – I specially enjoyed reading about the tussle between the daughter of the house and one of the visitors ‘ young mistress ( the all – too – familiar tussle between social standing and beauty ) and the conversation between a couple where the wife chides the husband for sucking up to his boss too much only to do the same when she herself comes face – to – face with the same man . . . The dialogue is witty and the crisp narrative keeps one turning the pages . The descriptions of the Crooked House and certain items from it ‘ s eccentric owner ‘ s collection offer something different than the regular mansion mystery . . .

While Shimada ‘ s English counterparts seem to have delighted at making the police their butt of jokes , Shimada decides to attribute their getting help to a sense of duty to protect the inmates of the house from a serial killer . . . They are also more vocal about their frustrations and openly acknowledge that the case is becoming too difficult for them to crack open without some external help ( I don ‘ t remember Japp or Lestrade doing the same – in fact , too often , their confidence peaks only when they are concocting some outrageous theory about the crime . . . ) .

The renowned detective makes his appearance only in the last part and I loved his introduction . If there is one standout thing about this novel for me , it is the entry style of the detective . The detective took it upon himself to provide some comic relief seeing that the officers are not doing much by way of detection or easing the minds of the mansion inmates . . . Holmes would have turned his nose upon this man for his antics but do not under – estimate this man – he is a master at deception . . .

The final denouement is something that not even Christie would have dreamed of . But , truth to be told , I am glad she didn ‘ t because it crosses the line into the preposterous solutions territory . . .

Still , I have to concede that in my opinion , it is a never – before – thought – of – solution in a mansion / locked – room murder mystery . . .

If you have already read the book , please let me know in the comments if you know any other books where the solution is similar to the one in The Murder in the Crooked House . . . Also , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book and this review . . .

Rating : 4 / 5 **

** The rating has been bumped up from 3 . 5 to 4 because Shimada has introduced a new trope in country manor suspense genre . . . Read the book to find it out . . . And I have been seeing some downright absurd endings that I am ready to accept Shimada ‘ s solution without dissecting it too much . But if you are a stickler for logic with a no – compromise policy , then this might not be for you . . .

Until the next review then . .

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