The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji


The Decagon House Murders is a pale imitation of the novel it is trying to pay homage to. While by no means a terrible read, I found it to be boring and ultimately deeply underwhelming. As the self-proclaimed whodunnit enthusiast that I am, I was looking forward to reading this, especially as it promised to be a playfully meta murder mystery. Rather than reading like a celebration of the golden age crime novel, The Decagon House Murders reads like an incredibly derivative work that is not nearly as clever a novel as it portends to be.
A couple of university students who are members of a mystery club and crime fiction aficionados travel to the decagon house, which is on a remote island that was the site of a brutal and still unsolved multiple murder the year before. The reason for their presence there is a bit flimsy, as they are supposedly there to try to solve this cold case but do not have an actual plan in place to figure out how they will spend their week there. Anyway, they wake up to an ominous sight straight out of And Then There Were None. They initially think one of them is playing a nasty prank but when they start getting killed off they realize that someone may have brought them to the island with murder in mind. Now, they are meant to be crime fiction experts, and yet do not really implement any actual knowledge of this genre. Sure, one thing is reading about whodunnits, and another thing is being in a whodunnit, but their delayed responses and realizations really made me question how well they were acquainted with the mystery/crime genre.
The book’s supposed self-awareness didn’t really add anything, if anything it made me all the more unconvinced by the characters’ ignorance and ineptitude.
The women in this book unfortunately suffer from the classic written-by-a-male-author syndrome. There is the extroverted pretty and the dowdy introvert…funnily enough one of the female characters is the first one to ‘lose it’, to the point of having to be sedated and referred to as hysterical. The two share one of the most hilarious ‘bonding’ moments, where they discuss their shared love for hand cream (i believe it was hand-cream) which is just..that is what us girls do when left on our own. A very relatable moment indeed.
Not one of the characters was actually clever or possessed any real common sense, many scenes were wasted on each character asking ‘was it you? and saying ‘it wasn’t me’. They spend so much of their time defending themselves when it should have been obvious that their word (saying ‘it wasn’t me’) was a waste of time/breath as they had no way of proving their innocence, and yet we have these unnecessary interactions taut could have easily been summarized in a few words (they took turns accusing one smother etc). Also, they are whodunnit experts, surely they would know that they are squandering valuable time on the kind of idiotic disagreements that solve nothing and if anything may result in them not paying attention to their surroundings etc.
The mystery switches between the club members who are at the house and a couple of ppl who are trying to learn more about an event some of the members were involved with. The switching between these two threads lessened the momentum of the events at the decagon house and didn’t really even result in some tantalizing red herrings or promising leads. Frankly, it just bogged things down.
The members at the island are known to us by their very imaginative nicknames (names of famous crime authors) which take away from the characters themselves…while I never go into a murder mystery expecting nuanced characters it would have been nice for the cast of characters to be at least entertaining, and caricatures can be engaging as Agatha Christie demonstrated time and again (the rapport between her characters is nearly-always amusing, The theatrical nature of many of them adds a comical quality to her mysteries). But here the characters were bland, the girls left a lot to be desired (they are the type of characters that would have been okay-ish if they existed in a 1930s whodunnit) while the boys (allegedly) were all kind of clever and yet so very foolish and slow.
This would have worked better for me if the author think if the author had committed to a sillier tone, as it would have resulted in a more spoof-type of narrative that doesn’t elicit a lot of scrutiny. But here the story seems to think it is far more intelligent and thrilling than it is…

Anyway, just because I found this to be a banal and lacklustre read does not mean you should not give it a go. As we know, YMMV.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

goodreads thestorygraph letterboxd tumblr ko-fi


Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: