Let me set the scene. A ‘Last Will and Testament’ is found with the dead body of an artist, Heikichi Umezawa, in Tokyo 1936. He claims in the Will to be possessed by the devil and dreams of the perfect woman.
“Following the terminology of alchemy, I shall call her Azoth, which means “From A to Z” – the ultimate creation, the universal life force. She fulfil my dreams completely.”
To create his perfect woman, he requires 6 different body parts: the head, the chest, the abdomen, the hips, the thighs and the legs, each from a different woman. Heikichi has 1 daughter to his first wife, 3 stepdaughters and 1 daughter to his second wife, and 2 nieces. The devil is apparently telling him to sacrifice 6 of these young women, the eldest stepdaughter is too old, to create Azoth from the separate parts. The plan introduces alchemy, astrology and geography, defined in great detail, especially at the start of the book. The most baffling aspect of the case is that the plan is implemented perfectly but after Heikichi’s death.
For over 40 years this has remained one of Japan’s most infamous, studied and elusive cases, which has been investigated by numerous professional detectives and amateur sleuths. No-one has solved the riddle of – who, how, why?
In similar Sherlock Holmes style, 43 years later, Kiyoshi Mitarai and Kazumi Ishioka (Holmes and Watson) embark on solving the case. Kiyoshi has his idiosyncrasies and deeply meditative episodes, while Kazumi is the industrious partner who is smart enough to follow leads and have sound opinions but is missing the crucial connections and insights that Sherlock, sorry Kiyoshi has.
The facts of the case are delivered as a dialogue between Kiyoshi and Kazumi which enables detail and anticipated questions to be aired and discussed by an enquiring Kazumi. The plot will certainly appeal to an analytical mind. At 74% into the book, the author directly reaches out to the reader and challenges them to solve the mystery and identify the killer. Stating that he has now provided all the clues necessary. From this point on the solution will be revealed.
The structure of the novel was a new one for me and very refreshing. I highly recommend this book, especially for the puzzle solvers. Enjoy the puzzle, it is a very unique and interesting plot.