The Decagon House Murders

Over the last few years, the trend of remixed old songs has taken over Bollywood quite seriously. What was merely an occasional nod to the sadabahar gaane of yesteryears has now become a full-blown obsession and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

After all, good art is supposed to keep inspiring and this culture of paying homage to the classics isn’t restricted to the music industry either. The iconic Venus of Urbino by Titian was inspired by Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, and in itself ended up inspiring several paintings later on, including Manet’s Olympia and Goya’s La Maja desnuda. Similarly, in the world of writing, you often come across books inspired by other books and today is about one such read: The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji.

It is about a group of students who visit an isolated island on a trip and begin dying one by one. As a Christie fan myself, the very premise of this book spelled And Then There Were None to me. However, it has been on my to-be-read list since forever and came so highly recommended that I began with the prologue when this paragraph happened:

“He has to kill them in order, one by one. Precisely like that story written by the famous British female writer—slowly, one after the other. He shall make them know.”

Well, with that bold declaration of what to expect henceforth, I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book! It borrowed its plot structure from And Then There Were None and yet managed to make the resolution of the mystery quite unique. In fact, the author frequently plays on the assumption that you would expect everything to be similar to the original book and makes twists and turns come out as doubly surprising. As an example, the ending of And Then.. has the murderer explain how this seemingly impossible crime was done in a letter, which is then put in a bottle and thrown into the sea. As The Decagon House Murders opens with the culprit setting out his plan in a similar bottle out into the sea, the Christie fan inside me raised some serious eyebrows at the degrees of similarity. This bit of subtext eventually handed the last laugh to Ayatsuji in a cleverly crafted finale to this ‘strangers on an isolated island get murdered one by one’ mystery. I cannot go on any further without giving away spoilers, so this is where I shall stop.

However, it is worth mentioning that this book launched the shinhonkaku movement of the Japanese mystery writing scene and is considered a literary milestone in detective fiction, so definitely give it a try. An added bonus of reading it is that it will tell you just what you need to write to have an asteroid named after yourself! Happy Reading 🙂

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