London, UK

International reviewers are falling in love with ‘Japan’s Man of Mystery’, Soji Shimada, and his unfathomable ingenious plots

Soji Shimada, author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders and winner of the 2009 Japan Mystery Literature Award. Photograph: Mark Yu.
The award-winning author Soji Shimada is very well known and highly regarded in Japan, his native country, where he has won the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award. His name, however, is not yet a household or familiar name outside Japan, especially in the English-speaking world, despite his debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, being ranked internationally as one of the very best of its genre ever written. This is at last starting to change. 

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada (translated by Louise Heal Kawai) published in English January 2019.
The critical acclaim and large number of positive reviews the recent publication in English translation of Murder in the Crooked House has spawned is helping increase his profile amongst some of the world’s very best mystery writers, whodunnit aficionados, as well as within international literary and publishing circles.

Publishers Weekly, the so-called American publishing industry bible, chose Murder in the Crooked House, translated into English by Louise Heal Kawai and published by Pushkin Vertigo, as its book of the week 24 June this year.

While in the United Kingdom, The Sunday Times selected Murder in the Crooked House as its book of the month in February, and subsequently included it on its influential list The Sunday Times best books of the year 2019 as well as within The Sunday Times best novels crime fiction, and thrillers of the year 2019.

Another extremely impressive example of the type of critical acclaim and recognition that Shimada is now deservedly receiving is Adrian McKinty, the Irish crime writer, ranking The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which has recently been republished in English translated by Ross and Shika Mackenzie, at number two on his list of the all-time greatest locked-room mysteries in an article in The Guardian, another influential British newspaper.

McKinty ranked The Tokyo Zodiac Murders ahead of books by Agatha Christie (1890-1976) and Ellery Queen (1905-1971), and many other highly respected and widely read authors. 

Kirkus Reviews states in yet another enthusiastic review that Shimada is bound to tantalize readers and that he “deserves to have more of his work translated into English” and Publishers Weekly writes that Shimada creates “delightfully intricate” murder puzzles with “retro charm”. 

The rising profile of Shimada, the master of postmodern whodunnits who actually originally wanted to become a painter but turned instead to reinventing the art of Japanese mystery writing, is not just limited to the English-reading world. 

In 2019 Russian, Italian and Chinese translations of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders have been released, and the highly prolific Shimada has penned a brand new title The Mystery of The Blind Swordsman and The keep, which was released to critical acclaim in Japanese in August. 

Links to some of the many English language reviews of the two English language translations published by Pushkin Vertigo can be found below:  

Murder in the Crooked House

The Times
Publishers Weekly
The Sunday Times
The Wall Street Journal
Kirkus Reviews
NB Magazine
Foreword Reviews
The Financial Times
Crime Review
The Japan Times

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

Publishers Weekly
South China Morning Post
The Reading Desk
The Daily Mail
Crime Review
The Japan Society

Next year, Red Circle will publish an original new work by Shimada in its critically acclaimed Red Circle Minis series. This new work will be published in English translation before any other language including Japanese as part of Red Circle Authors Limited’s English-first publishing strategy.
John Clegg, poet and bookseller, pointing at the three first Minis in the series Red Circle Minis on sale at the London Review Bookshop (LRB). Photogragh: Red Circle Authors Limited.
  • RedCircle
    About Red Circle:
    Red Circle Authors Limited is a specialist publishing and communications company that conducts bespoke projects on behalf of a carefully selected and curated group of leading Japanese authors. Red Circle showcases Japan’s best creative writing. For more information on Red Circle, Japanese literature, and Red Circle authors please visit:
    • Soji Shimada
      About Soji Shimada:
      Soji Shimada is the master of postmodern whodunnits who originally wanted to become a painter turned instead to reinventing the art of mystery writing. His debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, now ranked among the top five best locked-room mysteries published worldwide, became an instant classic, transforming him into Japan’s Man of Mystery and one of the country's bestselling authors.