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10 Best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels

I read a lot of Japanese crime & mystery related novels. What about you? In fact, reading any kind of books is my hobby along with traveling elsewhere. I assume you probably have your favorite type of book as I have. We are different, no doubt about that!

If you like reading this genre book where you find the words such as crime, mystery, detective, police inspector, cruelty, murder, alibi, and suspicion, I hope you would like to read a list of Japanese mystery books.

To me they are unique, easy to read and there is something hidden to be explored. I believe they are the best Japanese crime mystery books ever published in Japan.

A Japanese Police on his duty. Photo Credit: Hungarian Snow at Flickr.

The more you read the books published by Japanese authors the more you understand the nature of Japanese literature. And when it comes to learning about Japan and its culture, you definitely have got to read books of different genres.

I hope you don’t bother learning something unusual or even usual from these books given below. Finally, I would like to tell you that the books you are going to read from this list would entertain you as well as horrify you even more. WHAT?!

1) The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows by Rampo Edogawa

The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadow. Two short novels could thrilled you. Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Have you ever heard of a name called Rampo Edogawa? In fact, that’s a nick name and his real name is Hirai Taro. He is seen to be the father of the Japanese detective story.

When I was a teenager I was a big fan of Kogoro Akechi. This is the character of a Japanese detective created by mystery writer Rampo Edogawa. He plays the main role in the story of The Black Lizard and Beast.

You would find him with a beautiful woman who happens to be the main criminal of the story. While on the other hand, Best in the shadow story is a suspenseful story of two writers and a woman.

This is a perfect tale of obsession and revenge. There are twists & turns, surprises, unusual things to be happened and etc.

If you want to reveal all the mysteries of these two stories, you better read the book here. Highly recommended!

2) Masks by Fumiko Enchi

Masks – One of my favorite crime & mystery novels.

There are some sort of books which we hardly stop reading. To be honest with you, Masks is such a kind of book.

I went out one summer’s day in the morning, picked up the book and started reading it sitting on a park’s bench. When I got back home it was almost 9:00 pm. What did I do till that time? Of course I read the book until I had finished it.

This is such a wonderful classic Japanese mystery novel that you would like to read often. There must be an unexpected twist in the novel or more; you will know it for sure.

The story is interesting and the plot is just unique. The whole story is based on two women, Mieko and Yasuko. Mieko is divested after losing her son, now she tends to build a personal affair with widowed daughter-in-law, Yasuko.

Their relationship is not straight-forward. Is there something missing or hidden that we don’t know yet? Sorrow, passion, love, physical pain, seduction are all alive in the story.

You should definitely read this book to find out the truth. Check out the book here.

3) The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

The Devotion of Suspect X – A popular Novel by Higashino.

A man’s dead body is found and identified thereafter. Now the police detective Kusanagi suspects a woman called Yasuko for the murder.

I will tell more of it a bit later, you just hold on for seconds. The devotion of suspect X is one of the best Japanese crime mystery novels ever written in Japan.

I could write a lot of thing about this one but the problem is that I would not be satisfied with my own review here. This novel has got many awards, for example: The Honkaku Mystery Award, Naoki Prize and so on.

Yasuko (divorced woman) who works at a restaurant and lives with her daughter Misato. On the other hand, Ishigami is a talented mathematics teacher who lives next door to them.

One day, Togashi (Yasuko abusive ex-husband) comes to Yasuko to extort some money. Something goes wrong at time between them and Togashi dies right there.

Yasuko does not know what to do with the dead body while Ishigami who hears the noisy disturbance offers help to dispose the body.

To reveal everything else about the murder, detective Kusanagi brings a well-known physicist, Yukawa to help investigating the case.

He is a private detective and solves the whole case without having any doubt to anyone. Do you want to know how he does that? Please read this exceptional book here.

4) Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out! – A horrible mystery novel.

I wish if I could write novel like these including this one. So far on the list, each and every novel is different from each other. The novel Out is no different!

It won the 51st Mystery Writers of Japan Award for best novel. Award winning crime novel like this should not be skipped from you if you are a bookworm like me.

Do you think that disposing a dead body is an easy task? I don’t think it is! Once a murder is committed, the trouble is going to follow the murderer. That’s the nature of our life.

Here in this novel, there are four women works in a bento factory in Tokyo who live hard lives. One of them, called Yayoi, one day discovers that her husband has gambled all the savings and she lose her temper as a result she strangles him to death. It was a pathetic scene.

Now, she is in real trouble. She is not alone in such a bloody situation, though.

Her other three friends who works with them helps her to dispose the whole body. Do you know how do they do it? And what happens after that? All your answers are given in this book.

5) Malice: A Mystery by Keigo Higashino

Malice: A Mystery! Does taking life of a person easy?

It will be very hard to find out the clues of the murder of a famous novelist Kunihiko Hidaka. I read it so I know it. While reading the book, you would think like “Oh! I have got it” but you are confused of it not knowing the real truth.

It happened to me so I guess the same thing may happen to you as well. Anyway, mystery books are like this and this is what I expect from them. Well, Malice: A Mystery is an outstanding crime novel.

No one knows the reason why Kunihiko Hidaka is murdered in his house on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. The Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga investigates the murder case to find the real murderer.

He meets Osamu Nonoguchi, a best friend of Hidaka. Does Nonoguchi provide truthful information to the detective to catch the killer or else? I highly recommend you this book to bring out the actual truth. You can buy this book here at a cheap price.

6) The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo

The Inugami Clan! Who is the silent killer?

I read this novel almost a year ago from now. My first impression after reading this novel was just “Wow”. It is an excellent book to read and collect. Unique crime story, climax and the plot make it a perfect book to spend free time reading it at home and outdoor.

In the 1940s Japan, Sahei Inugami (the wealthy head of the Inugami Clan) passes away leaving a bizarre last will. In the last will, it reveals that a young orphaned woman who was adopted into the family must get married one of the old man grandsons.

Soon afterwards, the will is announced members of the family begin to show up dead, one by one. Detective Kindaichi must find out the truth behind all those murders.

The truth is slowly revealed and I want you to find them all reading this fabulous novel. You can follow this link to check out the book.

7) All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe

All She Was Worth. A beautiful lady disappears – why?

Want to get to know about contemporary life in Japan? Then you can read this novel, it is highly recommended to you. I think it is a masterpiece and bestselling book of author Miyuki Miyabe.

She did a great job writing such a great crime mystery novel like this. This intriguing story will make you think of dark side of Japan’s society.

In 1992, Tokyo, a beautiful young woman called Shoko Sekine disappears without leaving a trace to his fiancée (Jun Kurisaka).

To investigate the case, he hires a Police Detective named Shunsuke Honma. The detective Honma soon finds that she is not whom she claims to be. There is something mysterious to be revealed!

Life of a person can no longer be a normal one after experiencing such incident. You will reveal everything reading every pages of this book. I hope you find them all.

8) Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Salvation of a Saint. Who knows may be this would be your best novel you read for this year summer.

Higashino is a renowned mystery novels writer in Japan. I have read all the books written by him so far. I have no idea how he gets those ideas to make the stories brilliant and readable.

A death could be accidental or intentional. No one knows until one goes through a proper investigation with the help of evidence. Here in this novel, main detective Kusanagi and his assistant Kaoru Utsumi are assigned to investigate a murder case.

Yoshitaka Mashiba and Ayane live together as husband and wife. Ayane’s husband wants a child while she can’t produce it and it makes her husband thinking for a divorce. On the other hand, hearing the news of Ayane’s father illness, she leaves her husband for a few days.

In her absence, Mashiba (her husband) is murdered. Who could commit such a brutal crime or was it a suicide? Find yourself reading it here completely.

9) The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi

The Tattoo Murder Case. Can anyone be such a brutal only for tattoos?!

This is one of the top rated Japanese classic murder mystery novels. It was first published in 1948. I admit that it is a good mystery with lots of twits.

Once you start reading it, it will be hard to stop, a real page turner! It did happen to me and I was fully satisfied reading it completely.

The title of the novel tells that it is a story about a young woman with an almost full-body tattoo who has a boyfriend called Kenzo Matsushita (a doctor). Her severed limbs (head, arms, legs) discovered in a room locked from the inside but the part bearing the tattoo is gone.

The case is assigned to his detective brother Daiyu Matsushita. Is he able to find the murderer?

This book would help you to imagine the Japanese life of the time (post-war Japan) including houses, styles, food and etc. You should read this book as soon as you can to reveal the killer.

10) Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto

Inspector Imanishi Investigates. A loyal Police Inspector’s outstanding investigation makes everything clear.

Here it comes the final one. Police inspector Imanishi has a good personality who sounds to me an easygoing person. He likes gardening and fond of haiku poetry.

That’s a sign of a good personality, don’t you think so? Though, his duty is to handle every sort of crime that happens as he is a dedicated police inspector.

One morning in the 1960s in Tokyo city, a disfigured dead body is found under the rails of a train. The body is badly damaged that police have a hard figuring out the victim’s identity.

In the story, you will find several more murders occur and that might be connected to the very first one. Inspector Imanishi has to identify the killer and find out the clues to solve this difficult murder case.

Originally this book was published in the 1960s in Japan. I would recommend it to anyone interested in 1960s Japanese culture and society. Remember that, this is not a rubbish book; rather it is one of the classic Japanese detective stories. If you are interested in reading this one, then please read it here.

Finally I would like to say that these top 10 Japanese crime mystery fictions are worth reading. These are the most fascinating Japanese novels that I could share if you really like crime & mystery novels. Please bear in mind that these are not Japanese edition but English. Happy reading!


  1. Edward Suddon

    Just finished the last one, loved them all! esp Inspector Imanishi. Hope more of that series gets translated into English. Many thanks to Kyuhoshi!

  2. I have read suspect X and I loved. I ‘ve become a fan of Hagashino. Was gonna get his other books and now no 2nd thought. Will definitely check out the rest too.

  3. im fascinated how japanese authors could make clever books like this. in your list i have 3 books that i read so far( malice, salvation of a saint, and suspect x) i downloaded it sadly i dont have enough money to buy this amazing books cause im a student but thanks for your wonderful review ill buy this book in future

    • Hi, thanks for visiting this post.
      I am very glad to know that you have read some of the books that I have reviewed here.
      Wish you all the best and take care. 🙂

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