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The Tattoo Murder Case

The Tattoo Murder Case

4.8 5
by Akimitsu Takagi

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Kinue Nomura survived World War II only to be murdered in Tokyo,  her severed limbs discovered in a room locked from the inside. Gone is the part of her that bore one of the most beautiful full-body tattoos ever rendered. Kenzo Matsushita, a young doctor who was first to discover the crime scene, feels compelled to assist his detective brother, who is in charge


Kinue Nomura survived World War II only to be murdered in Tokyo,  her severed limbs discovered in a room locked from the inside. Gone is the part of her that bore one of the most beautiful full-body tattoos ever rendered. Kenzo Matsushita, a young doctor who was first to discover the crime scene, feels compelled to assist his detective brother, who is in charge of the case. But Kenzo has a secret: he was Kinue’s lover, and soon his involvement in the investigation becomes as twisted and complex as the writhing snakes that once adorned Kinue’s torso.

The Tattoo Murder Case was originally published in 1948; this is the first English translation.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Clever, kinky, highly entertaining.
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 nave, lovestruck younger brother of Detective Chief Inspector Daiyu Matsushita. The police's problems are compounded by two additional murders. A tattooed manthe brother of the first victimis 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
J. Ashley
If you like classic mystery, read this book.The world of post-WWII Japan is brought to life in all its contrasts, bombed-out buildings next to perfectly preserved houses, people longing to return to normal life in the middle of chaos....If you're interested in tatoos, have one, or are considering getting one, read this book.
Mystery Magazine Online
Kirkus Reviews
If the title sounds like S.S. Van Dine gone Japanese, it should: This first English translation of Takagi's 1947 novel (first of a series starring his improbable Boy Genius, forensic medical student Kyosuke Kamizu) has all the mind-boggling braininess and dazzling artifice of mystery's Golden Age, spiced with voyeuristic close-ups of a dying art in which postwar Japan remains supreme: full-body tattoos. The plot focuses on the three luckless children of nonpareil tattoo artist Horiyasu, each of them tattooed with a mystical totem—a snake, a frog, a slug—whose combination, even one to each blood relative, spells trouble. Trouble wastes no time in finding Horiyasu's daughter Kinue Nomura, whose fears that she's being stalked by a killer are fatally confirmed when her brand-new lover, military medic Kenzo Matsushita, finds her dead and dismembered inside her locked bathroom. Just as Kinue's death is only the first in a series of grisly tattoo-oriented killings, the bizarre twist Takagi puts on this dismemberment—Kinue's tattooed torso is missing, leaving only her head and limbs—is only the first of a series of Grand Guignol touches evidently calculated to outdo John Dickson Carr in both ghoulishness and ingenuity. Intricate, fantastic, and utterly absorbing. More, please.

From the Publisher
Praise for The Tattoo Murder Case

“Like voyeurs, we follow Takagi down the charred streets of bombed-out Tokyo to scenes of fastidiously executed decadence . . . [A] tale of sexual obsession and perversity.”
The New York Times Book Review

"The Tattoo Murder Case is a delightful, different book, not only because of its unusual setting and premise, but because Takagi is a powerful plotter and constructor of fascinating, complex characters. Introducing American audiences to great foreign mysteries (as well as unusual domestic voices) has become a Soho Press trademark, and almost everything in its catalog is top-notch. The Tattoo Murder Case is a high-water mark even by those high standards."
The A.V. Club

“Clever, kinky, highly entertaining . . . I want more.”
Washington Post Book World

 —The Seattle Times

“An engaging, refreshingly different invitation to fictional mayhem.”
Arizona Daily Star

“Intricate, fantastic and utterly absorbing. More please . . . Calculated to outdo John Dickson Carr in both ghoulishness and ingenuity.”
Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
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Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

Akimitsu Takagi (1920–1995) studied engineering at Kyoto University and later worked for the Nakajima Aircraft Company. Over the course of his writing career, he published fifteen popular mysteries and won the Japan Mystery Writers Club Award.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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The Tattoo Murder Case 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
PatrickZJD More than 1 year ago
While I disagree with both previous reviewers as to their characterization of this novel -- I am a huge fan of William Gibson's "Neuromancer, and this book is nothing like that outside of atmosphere; also, I am a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and Akimitsu Takagi does not possess their writing style -- I must say that their opinions as to the quality of this mystery is right on the mark. Reading, much as suggested both within the book and in the blurb, like a classical John Dickson Carr "Sir Gordon Merrivale" or S.S. Van Dine "Philo Vance" mystery, "The Tattoo Murder Case" has every element needed for a classic mystery of the 1930s, including a femme fatale, heavy-handed investigator, helpless sap with more than a hint of intelligence, gigolo, and, last but not least, effete genius to solve the case...with a surprising touch of sexuality and the outre as well. While it is difficult to say that the characters are more than standard mystery character ciphers, and the mechanics of the plot is no more conventional than any other locked-room mystery, focussing on this would do Takagi's novel a disservice, precisely because it IS a fantastic representative of this sub-genre, with a fantastic capture of post-WW2 Tokyo besides. Not once did the book's near-obsessional information of tattoos seem unnecessary or forced; indeed, it is funny to read this book now in a culture where tattoos are found on the bodies of cinematic superstars like Megan Fox and on reality TV shows, and not merely on drunken sailors or criminal reprobates, with all of the ill feelings and opinions society holds of their wearers (and which I for the most part agree with). I suppose the only thing that I found disappointing was that Kenzo Matush-ta, the book's seeming protagonist in the starting pages, was not the one in the end who ended the mystery...but then, Dr. Watson rarely did as well. Overall, I found "The Tattoo Murder Case" a splendid addition to my mystery library, and in the end I can give this book the highest recommendation possible, as it makes you want to have been present for the events unfolding therein.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this book was actually written in 1948, you will be amazed by how utterly modern it is. The translation is perfect and the mood is very reminiscent of William Gibson, ala 'Neuromancer.' It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Gibson read this book before writing about his future Tokyo.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like the authors who started this genre: Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammet, then this book is a *must read*. *Tattoo Murder* has all the great mystery and dark irony of Chandler and Hammet stories, plus a healthy dose of Sherlock Holmsian deductive reasoning. All these classical elements come together in a story that retains a wonderful flavor of Japan. This book gives a fascinating glimpse into Japanese culture, the Yakuza, and tattoos