The K Apartments for Ladies are occupied by over a hundred unmarried women, once young and lively, now grown and old - and in some cases, evil. Their residence conceals a secret, a secret connecting the unsolved kidnapping in 1951 of four-year-old George Kraft to the clandestine burial of a child's body in the basement bath-house. So, when news comes that the building must be moved to make way for a road-building project, more than one tenant waits with apprehension for the grisly revelation that will follow. Then the master key is lost, stolen and re-stolen, and suddenly no-one feels safe.
Originally published back in 1962, this ‘puzzle’ mystery has been translated into the English Language and is now available in digital format.
Although I consider myself somewhat well versed on mystery novels and the various sub-genres, I wasn’t quite sure what was meant by ‘puzzle mysteries’, which, of course, piqued by interest, on top of the cultural aspects and the vintage/classic angle I’m always a sucker for.
The story is centered around the K apartments for single ladies, which is about to be moved due to the widening of a highway. As the story progresses the past and present slowly merge as the truth behind the death of an infant is revealed amid shocking revelations.
The apartment's master key plays a prominent role in the way these tightly held secrets emerge from the shadowy corners of loneliness, obsession, and sorrow, and the deceptively benign activities transpiring at the K apartments for women.
The story is short, but it packs a big punch. It was almost like reading a group of connected vignettes with the post war backdrop of Tokyo creating a stunning atmosphere. These ‘vignettes’ are all a piece of the puzzle, which gradually comes together, piece by piece, to give the reader the full, entire picture.
Fate! It can stab you in the back any time, upsetting the most carefully thought out activities. Fate doesn't care what the upshot is.
Very clever! The definition of a puzzle mystery is rather vague, but it is supposed to focus on solving the puzzle, without spending a great deal of time on the development of the characters. However, I did get a nice glimpse into the secret lives, and human foibles, of these women, as a tragic story unfolds.
I’ve never read a mystery quite like this one, and the more I pondered on it, the more appreciation I had for the author’s ingenuity. I am very interested in reading more books by Masako Togawa if I can locate any with translations.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are a little outside the box, are masterfully written, and keeps you guessing or if you enjoy vintage mysteries.