I’m not really into classic detective fiction. While I definitely enjoy a mystery and a puzzle (ooh, and a murder!) in whatever I read, I’ve not once had the urge to pick up a Sherlock Holmes novel, and only vaguely know about Agatha Christie’s famous stories. In fact, while The Decagon House Murders is loosely based on Christie’s And Then There Were None, I only knew about the latter’s infamously racist original title, nothing about the story itself.
Decagon is, as I learned, a prime example of shin honkaku – a Japanese genre that gained popularity in the ’80s by reworking classic whodunnits in a more modern setting. I still would never have picked this up had it not been for Molly Young, who runs a monthly book recommendation newsletter with off-the-beaten-path titles, but I’m really glad I did.
So, on to the story: a few members of a university detective fiction club decide to visit an island where only six months ago, a man committed a horrible murder-suicide. The reason for their trip is never really made clear, but it doesn’t matter anyway, as one by one they get picked off and murdered.
I really enjoyed this, and read most of it in a 24-hour span, but I couldn’t really tell you why. The characters are wooden, the writing matter-of-fact; both exist merely to present the mystery to the reader. And yet, the puzzle itself is so good, and the setting so eerie and interesting, that I just kept wanting to read one more chapter. Maybe one more.
If you’re like me, and you cannot get excited by another old lady solving a crime (looking at you, Miss Marple) or a pencil-stachio’d gentleman sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong (*cough* Poirot), give this a go – it might surprise you.