The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi:
Detective Stories of Old Edo

Okamoto Kido

translated from the Japanese by Ian Macdonald
University of Hawaii Press 2007
A book review by Danny Yee © 2007
Okamoto Kido's Hanshichi stories were inspired by Western models, in particular Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. They were also an attempt to give his readers a feel for the world of Old Edo: they were written between 1917 and 1937 but are set in the decades around 1850, with a frame in which an aging Hanshichi tells stories to the narrator in the 1890s.

The mystery elements of the stories are limited and Hanshichi's successes are often as dependent on good luck and fortuitous encounters as on clever deduction. There's little tension, with no element of menace or danger. And there's no real character development. The plots work to keep events moving, however, and the stories are fast-paced and eventful. They are also light-hearted, good-humoured, and generally fun.

There is plenty of interest in the background, in the vivid picture the stories give of mid-nineteenth century Edo (Tokyo). They feature street life and gossip, venture into bathhouses, shops, teahouses, brothels and samurai mansions, and turn on relationships between husbands, wives, and lovers. Many involve superstitions of one kind or another, though Kido always opts for ultimately natural explanations. Watchmen, fire bells and the fire alarm system feature in one story; animals such as cats and river otters feature in others.

March 2007

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%T The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi
%S Detective Stories of Old Edo
%A Kido, Okamoto
%M Japanese
%F Macdonald, Ian
%I University of Hawaii Press
%D 2007
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780824831004
%P 335pp