The Village of Eight Graves Is Bringing My Reading Slump Back From the Dead

The village of Eight Graves is perched amid the desolate mountains on the border of Tottori and Okayama prefectures.

There is always something about translations that intrigue me.

Japanese books have been rising in popularity across the Western market for years — see: Before The Coffee Gets Cold, There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, Convenience Store Woman — and as I read them, I’m always thinking about what the book must have read like in the original language.

What were the particular cadences in this book? What was the original author’s voice like? What references have been changed to better appeal to a Western audience?

I think the English translations of Seishi Yokomizo’s detective novels are some of the better translations I have gotten to read, especially with the release of The Village of Eight Graves.

In the third novel of the series, an orphan finds that he is the heir to the Tajimi inheritance, but when he travels to meet his long-lost family in their hometown, relatives suddenly begin dropping like flies.

The Village of Eight Graves has taken their name from a centuries ago curse, when the then-villagers had betrayed a group of samurais for their fortune, only to be cursed for eight generations with the samuarais’ dying breaths. Eight people will die per generation in exchange for the eight lives they took.

The curse strongly manifests in the Tajimi family, with one member of the family going on a killing rampage every generation. And now with Tatsuya’s return, the curse seems to be starting up again.

And with everyone turning against Tatsuya, only detective Kosuke Kindaichi can prove his innocence.

I adore the premise of The Village of Eight Graves; the generations-long curse is a trope well beloved in any Asian culture. And coupled with the tropes of forbidden love, filial piety and fate, the novel reads like an introduction to Asian drama, in the best way possible.

Like I’ve mentioned in my previous newsletters, even though I love just about any mystery novel, I tend to have trouble following the twists and turns and often rely on that final reveal to explain who the villain is. The Honjin Murder, the first in this series, was one of the rare books where I had no trouble following along due to how clearly every thought was explained.

I did also did find it somewhat funny that the villagers were so incensed at Tatsuya’s return, despite the fact that they were the ones who had originally betrayed the samurai and Tatsuya — who had barely ever existed within the village — was somehow personally responsible for the deaths of some strangers.

My only qualm about this book is that I found the romance subplot a little misplaced. I did see it coming, but maybe after reading too many romance books this year, I’ve been spoiled for what kind of pacing we should come to expect when two characters fall in love. I would argue that this flaw is one that is fairly easy to ignore; if I really wanted to, I could just skip a few paragraphs and it wouldn’t take anything away from the story.

If you’re looking for a nice murder mystery to wind up the year, The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo is a wonderful choice with enough twists and turns to keep any budding detective interested.

Rating: 4/5

The English translation of The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo will be released on the 9th of December 2020.

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Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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Hui Ying

Hui Ying

Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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