Best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels 2022

best Japanese crime mystery novels

Looking for some mind-bending reads? Here are the best Japanese crime mystery novels that will keep you hooked!

Nothing can beat a warm cup of tea, a cosy blanket and a good crime mystery novel on a cold day. To tell you the truth, I enjoy reading a thrilling Japanese novel a lot more than watching a movie.

Best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Crime Mystery NovelsAuthor
Out Natsuo Kirino
The Devotion of Suspect XKeigo Higashino
MasksFumiko Enchi
The Black Lizard and Beast in the ShadowsRampo Edogawa
The Decagon House Murders Yukito Ayatsuji
The CageKenzo Kitakata 
Malice: A Mystery Keigo Higashino
The Tattoo Murder Case Akimitsu Takagi
The Inugami Can Seishi Yokomizo
All She Was Worth Miyuki Miyabe

The way the picture is painted, letting my imagination run wild, causing me to sit at the edge of my seat and turn the pages quicker than my mind can register what I’m reading is something only a Japanese Crime Mystery Author can do. 

Which is the best Japanese Crime Mystery Novel?

“Ori” or the English version, “The Cage” is the best Crime Mystery Novel, one that a voracious reader must not miss. The author of this book is Kenzo Kitakata.

Who is the best Japanese Crime Mystery Author?

Kenzo Kitakata is hands-down the best Japanese Crime Mystery Author. This 73 year old lawyer turned writer has published over 50 novels and several short stories. Many of his books have been adapted into movies and translated into English.

So here you go, a list and reviews of the best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels:  

Top Japanese Crime Mystery Novels

Out by Natsuo Kirino

A book that kept me up all night rapidly turning the pages is “Out” by the popular female author Natsuo Kirino.

In an industry dominated by men, Ms Kirino has made a mark for herself by creating a psychological thriller story of four women working together in a Bento Box factory, and how far each would go for covering up a murder. 

This is not just one of those novels that you read and forget. The author challenges you to think what your beliefs are about justice, what it means to you and even question yourself about what you would do if you were in the protagonists’ shoes.

And once you are done reading this book, I guarantee you will be craving for more of Natsuo Kirino, so I recommend her “Real World” and “Grotesque” as well for some pleasurable thrillers. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

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The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 

If you haven’t read Keigo Higashino’s “The Devotion of Suspect X”, you have truly missed out on one of the best Crime novels in the world. This book is so popular that it has been adapted into a TV series as well as a movie, which is now a blockbuster in Japan.

This is a novel that is written from pure intelligence as the two characters, the detective and the criminal work their brains and play mind games, each to come out the winner.

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This book had me rooting for the super smart detective for one part and for the other, I was torn between him and the criminal he is chasing down, who only has good intentions at heart. After all of that, you will not predict the ending. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

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Masks by Fumiko Enchi

I’m a sucker for a book that not only has a bit of mystery, but also some heart. Fumiko Enchi’s “Masks” is a much loved and read Japanese novel that narrates the tale of two women who have both lost someone close to them. While one is a widowed wife, the other is her mother in law.

The latter strives to build a relationship but the story isn’t one without plenty of twists and turns. This book had me hooked and once I finished it, I wished there was just a little bit more.

This one in a million kind of story has so much passion and grief, subtly lined with seductive mystery. You really have to read it to understand why this is a best seller.   

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows by Rampo Edogawa

Books like The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows by Rampo Edogawa make me thankful for translators, cos this is a true experience. There are plenty of stories out there about vengeance, obsession and revenge, but very few manage to actually reach out to the deepest corners of your brain and awaken the darkest spots.

The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows does just that. The plot is about two men who are writers and one woman, with plenty of exciting twists and turns thrown in.

Rampo Edogawa is without doubt one of the best Japanese crime mystery novelists out there, with a talent that is truly unmatched, and this is one book that is to be relished once, twice, even thrice. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

Give me a good murder anyday and you can win over my heart. I mean, in a book. Something unsolvable. Something that requires me to think, to solve.

I loved reading The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, but I have to admit that it reminded me of the Agatha Christies I grew up reading. 

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Well, this could be because the protagonists in the novel love solving mysteries and the plot involves them visiting an isolated island to try and solve the most recent murders committed there.

As you can expect, this in turn takes a wild turn with the hunters becoming the hunted, with the reader suspecting every single one of the characters until the ending reveals it all. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata 

Kenzo Kitakata is sort of a legend in Japan when it comes to the most popular crime mystery novels. While he has a long list of books he has authored, I personally think “The Cage” is one of his best.

I devoured this book from start to finish and couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after I completed this piece of genius. 

The story is about an average man who runs a supermarket in the suburbs of Tokyo, leading a simple life with no trouble in the horizon. That is, until an extortionist works on forcing him out of business. 

This sends him back to the underworld that he was once part of, and gotted out of – the world he didn’t want to have anything to do with. While the storyline itself is a little predictable, Kenzo Kitakata makes it exciting and thrilling, keeping the reader engaged throughout.

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

Malice: A Mystery by Keigo Higashino

Malice: A Mystery is one of the most amazing Japanese crime mystery novels that I’ve read so far. This book looks very easy to understand but is quite confusing especially with the murder clues. 

The book is about this man, Kunihiko Hidaka who is leaving Japan and relocating to Vancouver but unfortunately gets murdered just the day before in his house. His death becomes a mystery and to solve it, detective Kyochiro Kaga takes the case. 

I loved reading this novel because I was constantly proved wrong by what I thought could possibly be the clue which made the novel even more interesting. Do read this best Japanese crime mystery novel. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi

A beautiful woman with intriguing body tattoos is found murdered in a room and in one of the most gruesome ways. Her limbs are severed and the murdered has taken away the portion of her body which had these tattoos.

The detective starts working on the case and is assisted by his brother, a doctor. During the course of the book we discover that the doctor was romantically involved with the victim, complicating the investigation.

Akimitsu Takagi has written one of his best books with “The Tattoo Murder Case”, one that will keep you company  this winter, when you’re locked in at home. Solve the case with the detective and the protagonist, Kenzo Matsushita. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo

The Inugami Clan by Seishi Yokomizo is set in early 1940’s and takes us through some truly horrible murders that take place when the chief of the Inugami Clan passes away.

The main character, Detective Kindaichi is intelligent and works on solving these murder mysteries. This is a character that appears in many novels by the author, which have been turned into movies as well.

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Through the journey of the detective in this story, he discovers some well kept secrets, identities of the members of the clan, forbidden relationships and cruel practices.

Seishi Yokomizo’s writing is old fashioned and may not appeal to a lot of new or young readers, but it’s certainly worth a try. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe

The New York Times commented that “All She Was Worth” is “deep and moody” and I couldn’t agree more. This thriller is quite dark and disturbing as it takes us through the passages of Japan’s consumerism.

As I continued reading the book, I couldn’t help but find parallels of true stories that are similar in many parts of the world – people falling into debt to extents where they simply cannot get out, and what’s the solution?

The book is about a woman who vanishes and the secrets that are revealed when the truth is unravelled. Miyuki Miyabe has given us a book that kept my heart racing until I finished it. 

Check out the best Japanese crime mystery novels below!

Inspector Imanishi Investigates

crime mystery novel

Inspector Imanishi Investigates is about this inspector named Imanishi who is a simple sober man who is interested in haiku poetry and gardening. He is also extremely dedicated to his work. 

There’s one murder that takes place where the victim’s body is fully damaged and the police had to identify it. There are a lot of murders which follows this one and are connected to it. It’s set in the 1960s and depicts a life from that time. 

I loved how this book looked super simple but got complicated each time I read a new page. Check out this novel if you want to experience the true essence of crime mystery. It’s written by Seicho Matsumoto.

Best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels: FAQ

Which Japanese crime mystery novel is worth reading? 

There are various Japanese crime mystery novels that are worth reading like Masks by Fumiko Enchi, Out by Natsuo Kirino, The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata and a lot more. These Japanese crime mystery novels have an extremely engaging plot, characters as well as are fun to read.

Which is a detective Japanese novel?

There are many detective novels in Japanese that have an extremely engaging plot, characters as well as setting. One of them is Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto which is solely about detectives. Other detective novels are Malice: A Mystery, The Devotion of Suspect X etc. 

The Cage

Looking for some mind-bending reads? Here are the best Japanese crime mystery novels that will keep you hooked!


Author: Kenzo Kitakata

Editor's Rating:
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