LRI’s third honkaku offering is now out and I guarantee it will not disappoint. Our first two offerings in this fascinating genre (The Decagon House Murders and The Moai Island Puzzle) were, strictly speaking, shinhonkaku (“new orthodox”) because they belonged to the honkaku renaissance of the 1980s. And they were novels.
The Ginza Ghost, on the other hand, is a collection of short stories written between 1932 and 1947, when the original honkaku first made its appearance. The times may have been different–it was a period when Japan started to industrialise and then became embroiled in the Sino-Japenese war, during which the author, Keikichi Osaka, died–but the ingenuity was still there.
Osaka’s trade mark is extraordinary events occurring in banal surroundings. No Gothic castles or haunted mansions: just retail stores, lighthouses, mines, even brothels. Although the solutions are always strictly fair-play, there is an unreal, almost hallucinatory quality to the tales. And, recently, the current masters of shinhonkaku have rediscovered these masterful stories. One of them, Taku Ashibe (whose masterful Murder in the Red Chamber is available in English: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Red-Chamber-Taku-Ashibe/dp/4902075385) has been gracious enough to write a fascinating introduction.