Most Japanese fiction has an element of suicide attached to it and almost every Japanese writer has explored it. Besides suicide, their favourite topic is Death and it is with this topic, The Devil’s Disciple begins.
The Devil’s Disciple written by Shiro Hamao is a decadent, quirky, druggy and kinky sort of a book. The Devil’s Disciple published by Hesperus Press consists of two short novels – the title novel and “Did He Kill Them?”. Both these novels feature pulp fiction crime like no other Japanese crime books I’ve read in the past.
The Devil’s Disciple is a story of a man called Eizo charged with and facing a trial for murder. The story starts with Eizo writing a letter to his once school friend, mentor and lover Tsuchida Hachiro. The two met in their school days and Eizo quickly fell under the spell of Tsuchida. Eizo sets forth his case in the letter, telling him that although someone did die, he isn’t the cause of it and neither is it murder. What unravels in the letter is also that Eizo blames Tsuchida for his life and philosophy, hence generating the title of the story.
The second story, “Did He Kill Them?” is a twisted and gory tale of a couple killed in their own home. There is only one possible suspect on the scene – Otera Ichiro, who is arrested for the crime and refuses to speak about it, even though he is sentenced to death. After the death of the suspect, the barrister finds a manuscript he wrote in jail, explaining what really happened and why he kept his silence.
I don’t think a lot has been written in this genre, Japanese Crime Fiction that is, however I consider myself lucky to have read these two stories. They are dark and build the atmosphere to perfection. The psychological elements are in place and they do depress you for a while. The translation is done to the last detail, which is required in a book like this. Hamao’s writing is not only powerful, but also contemplative. Besides this, I am only too happy that Hesperus Press has published this work. I would recommend this book to all lovers of crime fiction.