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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Book Review: Tokyo Zodiac Murders

By Soji Shimada
ISBN: 4-925080-81-4
251 pp

zodiac-murdersThis mystery is both gory and intelligent, and it perfectly exemplifies a charge many make of Japanese culture: that its quiet veneer of kindness, patience, and civility covers nothing less than a roiling, profound violence. Shimada structures the book like a play, and he frequently dips into the narrative to invite the reader to follow clues and put forth hypotheses, along with his two protagonists, amateur detectives who take up Japan’s “greatest unsolved mystery".

What we know is that the mystery encompasses a series of grisly murders committed 40 years ago, that they are at least tangentially related to the bizarre astrological beliefs of an artist who may or may not have been the first victim, and that these killings were executed, at least in part, because of this artists’ fascination with building “Azoth,” a perfect female constructed from the bodies of many other women. What we don’t know is how these murders are connected, who committed them, why the bodies were found hacked to pieces along certain longitudinal or latitudinal axes, where – if anywhere – Azoth has been hidden, and whether our amateur detectives can answer these questions in the five days they’ve been allotted before fresh scandals emerge.


Tracy Slater, PhD

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