Tokyo Express

Translation: Jesse Kirkwood


Tokyo Express is the first novel by one of the fathers of Japanese crime fiction, Seichō Matsumoto, which was published in 1958.

On a normal day in January, the police are called to a beach in Hakata Bay to deal with two bodies – of a woman and a man. They quickly conclude that it was lovers’ suicide and the death was caused by drinking juice mixed with cyanide. The plot thickens when it becomes apparent that the man was a government official involved in a bribe scandal. While there are no indications of third party involvement, there are skeptics among the police who do not allow the case to be as simple as it first appeared.

Tokyo Express is an intimate detective story in which train schedules play first fiddle. It’s difficult to put this books away. I kept turning the pages with impatience (and growing frustration) because each new lead turned out to be false, and the only suspect was untouchable. Together with the main character, I was slowly losing hope of solving this puzzle, but I liked that a lot. I liked that the detective was so human – sometimes pissed off, sometimes unsure, making stupid mistakes out of fatigue. If you also feel bored with genius detectives in crime fiction and you’d rather go on a slower adventure which takes place on several Japanese islands – make sure to grab Tokyo Express.

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