Noir fiction: Japanese thrillers   推理小説

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Rising sun, red blood

What should you read while traveling in Japan? Apart from the classics or the inevitable Haruki Murakami, Japanese thrillers are a great option. Well translated and good quality, they expose the truth of Japanese society. A few suggestions:

By transgressing societal taboos, these thrillers can allow you to view the country you're visiting and the people you meet in a different light.

Detective novels are often more "serious", exploring everything from the dark recesses of the Japanese family, societal pressure, or nuclear dangers, to the more "commercial" novels describing the world through the eyes of the Japanese youth. These books can offer a deeper understanding of Japan without having to open a textbook.

- Keigo Higashino: some call him the Japanese Stieg Larsson, and they aren't wrong. One by one his books address the aspects of society that the Japanese prefer not to see, involving family, nuclear danger, and violence. A sharp eye of his time.

Recommended: Salvation of a Saint, The Devotion of Suspect X.

Miyuki Miyabe: regularly adapted for TV, her novels often flirt with the fantastic and are easier to access for the casual reader.

Recommended: Shadow Family, Crossfire, All she was Worth.

- Natsuo Kirino: a virtuoso of anxiety, read and prepare to be afraid... very afraid.

Recommended: Real World, Grotesque.

- Seicho Matsumoto: the Japanese Simenon, an older author but one whose books remain good references. For those who want to get to know 60s Japan.

Recommended: Points and Lines, Inspector Imanishi Investigates, Pro Bono.

- Edogawa Rampo: the godfather of well-crafted thrillers and classics of Japanese literature, he is the founder of the detective genre in Japan.

Recommended: Strange Tale of Panorama Island, The Caterpillar, The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows.

- Ira Ishida: his stories expose Japanese youth culture, particularly that of women and lowlifes. Real page turners!

Recommended: Ikebukuro West Gate Park


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