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The Case of the Sharaku Murders

by Andrew Lee

Staff Writer

Before winning the Edogawa Rampo Prize for “The Case of the Sharaku Murders” in 1983, Katsuhiko Takahashi was an ukiyo-e researcher and university lecturer, which perhaps explains why he chose to set his debut novel in the bitchy academic world of ukiyo-e scholarship — where art professors attain shogunlike status among students who treat their mentor’s theories as law. When the body of one such scholar, Saga Atsushi, is found floating off the coast of Tohoku a mystery within a mystery soon begins to unravel.

The Case of the Sharaku Murders, by Katsuhiko Takahashi Translated by Ian MacDonald.
thames river press, Fiction.

Toshusai Sharaku was a ukiyo-e artist who over 10 months between 1794 and 1795 designed around 140 prints, mainly of kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers, but to this day very little of him is actually known — including his true identity.

When a student of Saga’s arch rival, professor Nishijima, stumbles across a clue as to who Sharaku really was, his achievement is soon claimed by his Nishijima, who, in turn, is also found dead. Can Sharaku’s secret really be worth killing for?