Death On Gokumon Island (1947/2022) by Seishi Yokomizo tr. Louise Heal Kawai

Welcome to Gokumon Island. Visit for the imposing scenery, stay for the murders…

Kosuke Kindaichi arrives on the island shortly after the war, bringing news of the death of his friend to the clan that he belonged to, a family that basically runs the island. However, it is more than the news that he carries – as he died, Kindaichi’s friend pleaded with him to protect his step-sisters, as he was convinced they were to murdered.

Soon, however, it becomes apparent that Kindaichi is powerless to prevent the beginning of the terror that strikes the island, as Hanako, one of the step-sisters is found brutally murdered. As Kindaichi hunts for the killer, he soon finds himself up against a near-unsurmountable problem – how can he solve a murder when he himself is the prime suspect?

Yes, it’s “Can the Puzzle Doctor get his head around a Honkaku classic?” time once again. And the answer is… well… mostly.

The opening section is rather lovely, with the descriptions of the island, its history and its people. There’s some quirky stuff, such as the old man of the family being mad and needing to be locked in a cage. The only disappointing element of the set-up is the potential victims, namely the three step-sisters. Occasionally I’ve moaned a little about how Paul Doherty used to set up his victims to be killed – for example, five or six members of the same group of knights who only exist to be murdered – but at least there, while they are obvious killer-fodder, they do have some personality to them. Here, the sisters are such horrible characters that you really don’t mind when they start getting picked off in particularly weird ways.

Oh, this isn’t an impossible mystery, by the way, unless you’re the sort of idiot who thinks being on an island means it’s an impossible crime. One of the victims is found under a heavy bell, but it’s barely a paragraph before Kindaichi has pointed out the convenient lever and pivot lying nearby.

It all trundles along nicely, and the mechanics of who did it makes good clear sense, along with how the reader could have worked out who did it (although you won’t). The problem comes from the motive. Kindaichi has to make some massive jumps to put that together and at the end of the day – well, perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but I just don’t understand why anyone would do that. Oh, and the bit where Kindaichi gets arrested is a bit out of nowhere…

One last thing – the translation is pretty good, but could the translator not have written “he laughed” rather than the multiple “ha ha”s that keep appearing between sentences? Once you spot them, you will keep noticing them…

All in all – one of the better Honkaku titles that I’ve read, I think, but there’s still some sort of disconnect between me and the genre that I’m still struggling to overcome. I’ll certainly be looking out for the next Yokomizo translation though…


  1. “Yes, it’s “Can the Puzzle Doctor get his head around a Honkaku classic?” time once again. And the answer is… well… mostly.”

    This makes me want to see you review the Detective Conan TV special The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly. The impossibility and locked room-trick is something like you have never seen before!

    Anyway, glad you also enjoyed it and Pushkin Vertigo is going to be publish Yokomizo’s The Devil’s Flute Murders next.


  2. Yes, although I didn’t mention it in my own review, I totally agree that the three sisters are more obviously headed for tragedy than Chekhov’s! Plus, their personalities – such as they are – made ME want to throttle them right out of the gate.

    I had my own issues with the solution, which we’ll discuss at BC, but the cumulative effect of this one grew on me. It’s not my favorite by any means, but I enjoyed it and am thrilled at all the honkaku and shin honkaku on the horizon.

    And let me add my voice to the chorus: TomCat, you’re our only hope! How can we access this CASE CLOSED wonder?!?


  3. The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly is not from the manga. It’s the 184th one-hour special episode originally written for the anime series. Just search “Detective Conan episode 184” and you should have no problem finding the sub. Enjoy!


  4. I haven’t read it, and I appreciate you can’t / shouldn’t explain it, but your motivational comment intrigues me. I wonder if it was purely poor plotting or a legitimate reason.


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