Book Review

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

mediocre mystery that solves its mystery in chapter one

(Pushkin Press, 2020, translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

February 12th

The year is ratcheting through at an increasing pace, just like all the years before it. 

I’m back to working 60 joyless hours a week atm and I’m trying to plan a trip to Europe (my lover is exhibiting in Venice during the Biennial) and it’s making me truly truly depressed, planning to be in beautiful old places, seeing people I know, just to return back to this (I’m gesturing at my hollow Canadian life)… it’s very sad.

I should change my medication, probably. Then again, I haven’t been self harming or acting on any of the incessant suicide ideation, so maybe it’s working as well enough as it’s meant to. Christ.


I also read a little string of mediocre novels this week, which never helps.

This first one, The Decagon House Murders is a 1987 Japanese crime thriller that is intentionally modelled after Agatha Christie’s most-racistly-titled novel, which – somewhat unsurprisingly – was clocked as inappropriately racist quite quickly everywhere except old Blighty, so it is only people from my country forced into the “What’s this guy talking about, Agatha Christie didn’t write an iconic novel called And Then There Were None, oh wait that’s what they renamed that one” thought process.

The premise of The Decagon House Murders is that seven students from a university “mystery club” – presumably just a crime fiction bookclub – go to an abandoned island where six months earlier a massacre-murder-suicide took place, and then one of them starts killing all of the others one-by-one-by-one.

Please note that what follows will make details of the plot completely apparent.

The very first chapter of the book – the prologue, if you will – explicitly states that someone is on the island prior to the arrival of the students. That person plans to murder everyone else, but their identity is not revealed. The next chapter sees six students arrive together on a boat from the mainland, to be greeted by the 7th member of their group, who arrived on the island early to “prepare the accommodation”. Now, given the prologue over the page, it would seem likely that the student who was on the island first will be the murderer. But that would be too obvious, right? But that’s exactly what it is.

I spent the whole novel waiting for this character to be murdered, so that the novel would morph into a more exciting, more mysterious, mystery. But everything is solved/revealed on page 5.

There is no intrigue, there is no surprise.

The methods the character uses for his murdering are different for all of his friends/victims, but the methods aren’t the mystery, so the “reveal” at the book’s end, detailing how the boy killed his friends, is without thrill, for the deaths had already been dramatized. Without a surprise w/r/t the identity of the murderer, the “surprise” of their logistics is redundant.

Yes, of course the murderer did some murdering and did some hiding, but the mystery was solved on page 5.

I just can’t emphasize enough that the “mystery” is solved on page 5 (please note it is not literally page 5, but it may as well be).

I don’t have anything to add.

Characterisation was weak, too, and as The Decagon House Murders is very much a genre text (rather than a Literary Novel), with its deeply unsatisfying plot, it ends up a deeply unsatisfying novel. Also, the murderer completely gets away with everything, yet then – it is implies – decides to hand himself in to the authorities, despite there being no physical evidence to back up his confession. What a self-grass. I’m sorry, but if you decide to murder six of your friends, you’ve got to follow through and move on. imo.

Ok, bye, gotta go outside again booooo is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

1 comment on “The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

  1. Pingback: Wind Pinball (that’s what it says on the spine) by Haruki Murakami – Triumph Of The Now

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