The Lady Killer
by Masako Togawa
First published in 1963
Genre: Thrillers / Crime fiction
With The Master Key, the author Masako Togawa has gotten me used to very clever mysteries, a bit like another amazing Japanese mystery writer, Keigo Higashino in The Devotion of Suspect X, for instance. So I’m thrilled to present today another classic by Togawa: The Lady Killer. I actually don’t like the official synopsis, which I think takes off a major part of the suspense, so for your own reading pleasure, skip it.
Apart from that, Pushkin Vertigo is doing an awesome job at publishing mysteries in world literature.
The book opens in a bar, where “wandering minstrels” play a melody by Schumann. A female customer, Keiko Obana, hears another customer sing the lyrics, and she joins him. That’s how they meet. A few months later, she’s found dead. Suicide? Why? Murder? Why? Who would have done that? Keiko is survived by her elder sister Tsuneko.
Then we turn to Ichiro Honda, who lives a double life: with his wife in Osaka on weekends, and with a collection of women on weekdays in Tokyo, where he works as a computer expert. From November 1963-January 1964, we discover that several of the women Honda slept with have been murdered. Evidence points clearly to him as the guilty party, but an experienced lawyer is not totally sure and starts his own investigation with his young assistant.
I thought all along I was smart enough to avoid the red herrings and see through, to finally get a major surprise in the last part.
The very end of the book though, seemed a bit flat and anticlimactic to me.
Apart from the great construction of the plot, I really enjoyed the feeling of an inevitable net coming over one of the main character. It created great tension.
VERDICT: Great suspenseful Japanese thriller with very smart plot.