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The Tattoo Murder Case Hardcover – December 1, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you read mysteries for insights into other cultures and different periods, this excellent translation of the first novel by Akimitsu Takagi, who became one of Japan's leading crime writers, is an eye-opener. In 1947 Toyko, the limbs of a murdered woman are discovered in a locked bathroom. Her torso--covered with intricately beautiful tattoos by her late father, a highly controversial artist--is missing. A doctor finds the body, and his detective brother is put in charge of the case. They bumble around until the doctor's friend, jokingly called "Boy Genius," leads them to the murderer. Fans of golden-age mysteries by S. S. Van Dine and John Dickson Carr should enjoy this unusual combination of ingredients.

From Library Journal

A female's limbs and head are found in a locked bathroom, and all the doors and windows of the house are locked. The dismembered body is discovered by two admirers, Professor Heishiro Hayakawa, a collector of tattoo skins, and Kenzo Matsushita, the naive, lovestruck younger brother of Detective Chief Inspector Daiyu Matsushita. The police's problems are compounded by two additional murders. A tattooed man?the brother of the first victim?is found dead and has been skinned, and victim number three, the jealous lover of the woman, is found dead from a gunshot to the head. Frustrated by their inability to solve these crimes, the brothers Matsushita, who have joined forces, enlist the services of Kyosuke Kamizu, the "Boy Genius." Kamizu methodically analyzes the deaths, interviews the prime suspects, and quietly solves the case. Intermingled among the twisted plot is the Japanese tradition of myth and superstition, ritual, male and female relationships, the strong tradition of family and family honor, and the relationships of younger brothers to older brothers. Takagi, Japan's most acclaimed mystery writer, has created a first-rate mystery, excellently translated into English.?Janis Williams, Shaker Heights P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; 1St Edition edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569471088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569471081
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Lee on July 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I first picked up this book, I was more interested in the cover art than the actual story. When I started reading it, I figured it would be one of those boring "Mr. Green with a wrench in the ballroom" types of mysteries. But it quite took me by surprise. This book had a surprisingly complicated plot, which I found highly interesting. Other than being a great mystery, it also explores the human nature side of things. Emotions, trust, and seeing what is really there were all combined to create this beautifully written plot. It just happens that I had written a story similar (but not close in quality) to this a year ago. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Japanese authors, mysteries, or extremely brain teasing tension type books. This is a must read for anyone.
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Format: Paperback
In a magnificent mystery written in 1947 the author explores the underworld of the Japanese tattoo masters, their secrecy, their rituals, and their beautiful art. A major plot element centers on a fictionalised version of the famous museum of Dr. Fukushi in Hiroshima, filled with the preserved tattooed skins of the Yakuza, and an archivist who years to collect the finest work, perhaps a bit prematurely. An absolute must-read for anyone involved in the tattoo world, it is also a story that presents clever turns of the plot until at last the amateur forensic detective puts all the clues together in a riveting conclusion. This is a recent translation of the work into English and features a beautiful cover with a photograph of a tattoo by the master tattoo artist Horiyoshi III.
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Format: Paperback
Akimitsu Takagi's The Tattoo Murder Case is a crime novel that fits comfortably into its genre. The nourish elements are all presenting the narrative. The troubled detective is following the trail of a crime that has inherent mystery surrounding both its perpetrator and its victim. But the novel is more enthralling than just these basic details. The detective, Kenzo, is locked in the culturally ruined Japan of post World War Two. The after effects of the Atomic Bomb are scattered throughout the narrative. This leaves a dark residual cast over all of the characters. The sense of a seedy underworld is revealed to reader as the narrative carries on. Another aspect that is uncovered is the sense that Kenzo is trapped in a necrophiliac relationship with the dead tattooed woman who has been stripped of her prized full body designs. This post-mortem aura surrounds all of the characters and draws parallels to the `dead' world in which they live. A strong commentary is made on the after effects of world war. Altogether it is a fantastically well crafted novel that will draw readers into an unfamiliar cultural moment and a mystery with uncertain outcome.
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Format: Paperback
I like the post-war Tokyo setting of this story. References are made to the horrors and trauma of war suffered by former Japanese soldiers. It also describes the wide discrepancy between different groups of people as they hold onto wealth and status, or madly scramble to grab them. We also see glimpses of black market and yakuza life styles. The murders are creepy and disturbing, and the psycho-sexual world of tattoo customers is nicely underlined. I'm not sure I quite believe the Boy Genius as a viable character, but I'm going to read the other books by Akimitsu Takagi as they become available.
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Format: Hardcover
To anyone who is interested in tattoos or in postwar Japan this book is a must. Having a traditional Japanese tattoo myself I was most impressed with the treatment of the art in relation to the trials of living with the artwork,and those who seek to posses it. The way the story does not rely on the tattoos to be the entire focus of the book is refreshing. The moral and ethical questions raised by the pursuit of these tattoos is hardly touched on,but this is a murder mystery not a book about ethics. As far as the mystery goes it is very well thought out and intelligent. You get to know the characters without too much guesswork and they do not have as rough a diologue as you would first assume.(this is in reference to the strict translation that is offered)
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Format: Paperback
In a concealed part of society in Japan where tattooed men and women still let their kimonos slip off to reveal their elaborate designs, Kenzo finds himself ensnared by the tattooed temptress Kinue shortly before her death. With beautiful snake imagery throughout the novel, from the cooler skin of a tattooed body resembling a "cold-blooded reptile" to the legend of the curse where the "snake eats the frog, the frog eats the slug, and the slug dissolves the snake," tattoos are disappearing from murder scenes with as much ease as a snake shedding its own skin. Obsessions abound as Kenzo and his police chief brother investigate, coming up with such suspects as Mr. Tattoo, also known as Professor Hayakawa, who persuades tattooed people to leave him their skins after their deaths; Ryokichi Usui, a member of the Most Wanted list; Takezo Mogami, the rich and overly-jealous lover of Kinue; and Tamae, Kinue's sister who disappeared during the world war. Finally turning to the "Boy Genius" Kyosuke, Kenzo and his brother are taught the importance of a good chess game and learn the secrets behind the locked room murder. The book tantalizes the senses with feelings of lust, intrigue in viewing banned tattoos, tastes of elaborate Japanese dishes, and the minds games between the killer and the investigators. The designs of the killer are as intricate and intriguing as the tattoos themselves; readers will be as "spellbound" by the novel as a "frog hypnotized by a voracious, gimlet-eyed snake."
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