In February 1936, Heikichi Umezawa, a demented artist, is found dead inside his studio, barred from the inside. Paintings with Zodiac themes are stacked against the walls and a letter from him, filled with alchemy and astrology references, is found in a drawer. In it, he details his plan to slaughter his six nieces and daughters and create Azoth, the perfect woman, from body parts removed from each of them. Fortunately, it appears that he was murdered before he could execute his insane plan….
… But, in the weeks following his death, his stepdaughter is raped and murdered and the police begin to discover the corpses of the six Umezawa women buried all over Japan, each apparently poisoned by a different alchemic element and each missing a vital body part. A Japanese Dr. Frankenstein seems to have carried out Heikichi’s mad project, yet Azoth herself is never found and the killer is never unmasked, despite the outpouring of theories provoked by the nationwide revulsion to the crimes. On the surface, they were the fruit of a diseased mind, a serial killer, but were they really…?
In 1979, a young fortune-teller, astrologer and amateur detective, Kyoshi Mitarai, takes a rash bet that he can solve in one week a mystery that has eluded all efforts over more than forty years. He succeeds and unmasks the diabolical killer and the extraordinarily clever plot, featuring possibly the finest red herring in all detective fiction.
Despite its magical and horrific overtones, this is a work of classical detection and a locked room mystery. It launched a revival of the Golden Age style (honkaku) in Japan (and, incidentally, introduced the serial killer theme one year before Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon.)
LRI is privileged to republish “TTZM.” Take advantage of this unique opportunity to acquire a personalized signed copy of this acknowledged masterpiece, dedicated to whomever you wish: contact me at email@example.com before June 15.