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Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination

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Collected in this chilling volume are some of the famous Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo's best stories—bizarre and blood-curdling expeditions into the fantastic, the perverse, and the strange, in a marvelous homage to Rampo's literary 'mentor', Edgar Allan Poe.


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Collected in this chilling volume are some of the famous Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo's best stories—bizarre and blood-curdling expeditions into the fantastic, the perverse, and the strange, in a marvelous homage to Rampo's literary 'mentor', Edgar Allan Poe.

30 review for Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Edogowa Rampo--just say his pen name quickly three times to discover how much he loved Edgar Allen Poe--is considered the first and foremost writer of Japanese mystery fiction. He is also much more. His stories, structured as popular "entertainments," are designed to convey all the pleasures of genre, and yet they possess an elegance and intellectual complexity greater than mere popular works. In this Rampo resembles Borges, and yet the two writers are very different. Borges is more philosophica Edogowa Rampo--just say his pen name quickly three times to discover how much he loved Edgar Allen Poe--is considered the first and foremost writer of Japanese mystery fiction. He is also much more. His stories, structured as popular "entertainments," are designed to convey all the pleasures of genre, and yet they possess an elegance and intellectual complexity greater than mere popular works. In this Rampo resembles Borges, and yet the two writers are very different. Borges is more philosophical, Rampo more psychological; Borges teems with puzzle and paradox, Rampo with obsession and ratiocination, and yet each celebrates man's inventiveness while still being woefully aware of his limitations. Indeed, I think Rampo's stories may be equal to Borges--which is a high compliment indeed--but I cannot be sure, for this translation often lacks the verbal elegance that would best communicate the formal beauty of these tales and give them the extra polish a first class work requires. All the nine tales here are very good, and "The Caterpillar," "The Hell of Mirrors," The Red Chamber" and "The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture" are excellent, but I must single out "The Human Chair" for special mention. It is one of the most memorable pieces of short fiction I have ever read, containing an extraordinary first-person monologue which is pathetic, disgusting and horrifying at the same time. Read it if you read nothing else of Rampo's. But I bet you won't stop there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I’m glad I finally read this collection, since, as with Edgar Allen Poe for American literature readers, only moreso, these tales are universally familiar to Japanese readers. The tales themselves? Fine, but none of the stories were special or memorable. All were well-written and reminiscent of Algernon Blackwell in style.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    The perfect murder. Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, or, as it should have been called, How to do the bloody deed and get away with it without facing criminal charges or the accusing finger of society (the bird, probably). No civil suits, no karmic payback! No coming back as a roach in the next life, that's right. It's essentially the same perfect murder in a lot of the stories. The getting away with it the appeal rather than the murder (wouldn't anything else work just as well?). It The perfect murder. Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, or, as it should have been called, How to do the bloody deed and get away with it without facing criminal charges or the accusing finger of society (the bird, probably). No civil suits, no karmic payback! No coming back as a roach in the next life, that's right. It's essentially the same perfect murder in a lot of the stories. The getting away with it the appeal rather than the murder (wouldn't anything else work just as well?). It's like how all of the long and short cons of today are the same old long and short cons of yesteryear with a few tweaks here and there. Murder is a chili with the right amount of seasonings. The ideal blend is in the next spoonful. If you can live with yourself. If you can live as someone else then you have created the perfect alibi. I was them and they were me. He (Edogawa is not his real name. He was trying to make the authorities think that Edgar Allen Poe was the culprit. Anagrams are so obvious!) tried to kill me. Paper cuts, falling asleep with the book on my face when I had left it on the pillow when I went to sleep. He had plans a, b and all the way through z. It was plan f that nearly did me in. I'm used to breathing through my mouth because I suffer from bad allergies in the spring time. The book on the face didn't work. I don't know if the crafty and craftier Rampo planned this or not. Probably. He comes back more times than Rambo. The pages over my eyes caused the ink to bleed into my eyeballs (I wasn't crying in my sleep. It was the dust that made my tear ducts leak!) and the words eased into my sleeping vision like a pink flashback from Saved by the Bell. The page on my cheek rising and falling with my ragged breath (allergies are a nightmare). Edogawa Rambo took over my subconcious mind. They were not my own feet walking in my dreams. I was Edogawa Rambo's mind corners. The trains of thought went to new worlds and I couldn't really get in because I didn't have the proper papers. I was the human chair man loving the bodies of another, their unknowing flesh to his one sided skin, in his hidden home of voyeurism and secondhand life and love. Touching is being touched. Murder through losing yourself, becoming another person in another's soul windows rather than your own, doing the same to others with your own eyes. See what you want to see. Hear no evil. To relate to the chair man (how could I not, as much as I read?) and then "Hey, did I make you think?" non-sucker punch line. Well, one of us is a sucker. "It's just a story" like people say to deny the sustaining of inner life and death. Murderer! To feel the writer's eyes behind the page would be living as the human chair. Real or not real wasn't the point. That's what sucks about short stories. They end and you can't go any further. It is awful to be killed that way! To lose the voice in the back of my mind that says "Hey! These endings are the opposite of a punch line. I get the feeling he wants to say the true horror is in the desires rather than the action. Nothing happens for good or evil. Fucking impotence. All of the scares are the stuffed and mounted cat in Scooby-Doo episodes and I'm not reading my own mind anymore. Trapped in a purgatory of wicked impulses." It would have been better to feel those desires, rather than be the recipient of them that way of did I make you think? To know how the wife felt the pleasure of torturing her utterly helpless husband. To feel it myself. What's in theory? The best moment was the grim satisfaction in his eyes (his sole expression. He was murdered in voice and body language of love) looking at newspaper articles and medals of war for his "sacrifice". If I knew why the wife enjoyed her power, why the husband enjoyed being a martyr, I would have lived in the story. I could imagine better the sick satisfaction of being harmed because I have spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. "Sacrifice this!" Killed. If one could make someone else have a somnambulistic experience that is how they would do it. Sleepwalking, nightmare walking, daymare walking. All in shoes that are not your own but you don't notice the clown killer shoes are too big for your size eights. That's how you get away with it. You're gonna get caught if you stop to think! If I'm right that Rampo's getting away with it was about the mental hold and free will thing over messy clean-ups. Plan Z he sent my twin to try and take my face. I couldn't tell the difference. Did it work?

  4. 4 out of 5

    El

    Having just finished off The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, I wasn't quite ready to fully return to the world of novels. Luckily this book was recommended for this month's book club read and very perfectly the author's name is a pseudonym, a play on Edgar Allan Poe. Say it out loud: Edogawa Rampo. Get it? These stories are certainly not as gruesome as some of Poe's, and they're certainly not as long as some of Poe's either. But these are good too, in their own right. If nothing else, they're Having just finished off The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, I wasn't quite ready to fully return to the world of novels. Luckily this book was recommended for this month's book club read and very perfectly the author's name is a pseudonym, a play on Edgar Allan Poe. Say it out loud: Edogawa Rampo. Get it? These stories are certainly not as gruesome as some of Poe's, and they're certainly not as long as some of Poe's either. But these are good too, in their own right. If nothing else, they're a lot of fun to read. I don't know if I've ever read any Japanese short stories, and I know I've never read any Japanese short stories along these lines, so this was a good experience as well. They weren't as creepy as I would have liked - they bordered on sort of simplistic by the time the stories ended, many had convenient endings - not quite "and it was all just a dream" but similar feelings of copping out. But these stories do focus on the duplicity of human nature, the psychology, and occasionally the psychoses. In other words, they weren't too far of a stretch. I could see situations like many of these actually happening. Which is, after all, where the true creepiness comes in. For the book club it was recommended that The Human Chair, The Caterpillar, and The Hell of Mirrors be the three people read for discussion. But I'm an overachiever and read them all because they're short stories and enjoyable to boot. Out of the three suggested for book club, The Human Chair was the most interesting to me, but the others were also good. A note on the translation, from the introduction: Edogawa Rampo, while fully capable of reading and understanding English, lacks the ability to write or speak it. On the other hand, the translator, a Eurasian of English-Japanese parentage, while completely fluent in spoken Japanese, is quite unable to read or write the language, as he was educated solely in English schools. Hence, for each line translated, the two collaborators, meeting once a week for a period of five years, were forced to overcome manifold difficulties in getting every line just right, the author reading each line in Japanese several times and painstakingly explaining the correct meaning and nuance, and the translator sweating over his typewriter having to experiment with sentence after sentence until the author was fully satisfied with what had been set down in English. I love that anecdote. It shows such dedication on both parts to want to bring these stories to a whole new population of readers. I'm sad that these stories aren't better known and more widely read. I don't think it would be inappropriate at all to read a few of these along side of Poe's short stories in schools.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    These different strange and surreal stories reminded me a lot of stories like Dark Water and The Ring - very different and very well-written.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zak

    Edogawa Rampo is the pen name of Taro Hirai, who is widely regarded as the father of Japanese mystery. It seems he was greatly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, hence the name "Edogawa Rampo". In this collection of short stories, he takes us into the world of the strange and the macabre. Some of the stories are more riveting than others, but the straightforward storytelling makes them all engaging throughout. His stories maintain more a sense of mystery and the bizarre, compared to Poe's which instill Edogawa Rampo is the pen name of Taro Hirai, who is widely regarded as the father of Japanese mystery. It seems he was greatly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, hence the name "Edogawa Rampo". In this collection of short stories, he takes us into the world of the strange and the macabre. Some of the stories are more riveting than others, but the straightforward storytelling makes them all engaging throughout. His stories maintain more a sense of mystery and the bizarre, compared to Poe's which instill more a sense of dread and terror. Based on this book alone, I would liken Rampo more to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, albeit a darker version of him. The best story to me would be 'The Human Chair'. Final rating: 3.8*

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ankit Agrawal

    This book deserves 5 points just for the first story and from there impact is lost with each story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    I found this at an Oxfam bookshop in Manchester, and it made my day. Best find of 2011! And this isn't the Rampo book I have already ordered through my local bookshop (and has yet to arrive). How lucky is that? The Human Chair: My favourite. It's all gone a bit "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected". The Psychological Test: How to catch a criminal with word-association games. The Caterpillar: Disturbing. The Cliff: Not amazing. The Hell of Mirrors: Nuts. I liked this line: "having now reached the age I found this at an Oxfam bookshop in Manchester, and it made my day. Best find of 2011! And this isn't the Rampo book I have already ordered through my local bookshop (and has yet to arrive). How lucky is that? The Human Chair: My favourite. It's all gone a bit "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected". The Psychological Test: How to catch a criminal with word-association games. The Caterpillar: Disturbing. The Cliff: Not amazing. The Hell of Mirrors: Nuts. I liked this line: "having now reached the age of twenty, he began to show a keen interest in the opposite sex," Isn't Japan great? The Twins: I don't think Rampo should use abandoned wells in more than one story. The Red Chamber: Like a bad "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected" (of which there were quite a few). Two Crippled Men: Yeah, good story. The Pasted Rag Picture: Genuine surprise with this one. Had absolutely no idea where it was going. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc46Gk...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aravena

    So dark and strange, yet so delicious. This is the second Ranpo I’ve read following The Early Cases of Akechi Kogoro, but whereas that collection is more of a conventional detective story, this one feels more versatile and accentuates Ranpo’s storytelling strengths better. The recurring theme of the nine stories in this book are the narrative style, in which a character recounts a strange story to another character (or to the readers), before a morbid twist is revealed in the end of these storie So dark and strange, yet so delicious. This is the second Ranpo I’ve read following The Early Cases of Akechi Kogoro, but whereas that collection is more of a conventional detective story, this one feels more versatile and accentuates Ranpo’s storytelling strengths better. The recurring theme of the nine stories in this book are the narrative style, in which a character recounts a strange story to another character (or to the readers), before a morbid twist is revealed in the end of these stories. The recount style varies between stories, and they’re mostly very effective, in addition to being accessible and thrilling page-turner. Ranpo’s pet themes can be spotted numerous times: various methods of murder, the psychology of physically and mentally disabled men, and reflecting devices such as mirrors and binoculars. The Human Chair A man sends a letter to a female writer about the erotic adventure of him hiding inside a chair. The highlight of the book, and despite the somewhat weak ending, it remains my favorite story here. (view spoiler)[The story gets weirder the more it goes, and climaxes with a terrifying twist that genuinely sends a shiver down my spine. There’s a second twist that unfortunately negates the impact of the revelation, but there’s also enough room left to the readers’ interpretation in the end. (hide spoiler)] The Psychological Test A fascinating story that breaks down the flaws in the use of ‘lie detection test’ to discover a murderer. Ranpo’s detective, Kogoro Akechi, briefly appear to crack the case here (thankfully without the customary let’s-spare-the-murderer-and-blame-someone-else nonsense), but most of the story are told from the murderer’s account. The Caterpillar A darkly erotic story told by the wife of a horribly disfigured man. A depressing story, but also very vivid in its brutally honest narrative. (view spoiler)[It unexpectedly has a bittersweet ending that left a strong impression on me. (hide spoiler)] The Cliff A woman and a man discuss the recent death of the woman’s husband. A bit predictable, but I enjoy the ending and the pure dialogue (it’s written like a theatrical script) form. The Hell of Mirrors In which mirrors are goddamn scary. A story about a man obsessed with mirrors, this feels more like a dark sci-fi story, or even a straight up horror. The Twins A man’s confession about how he murdered his twin brother. Decent story with a dose of black comedy at the ending. The Red Chamber A man recounts his murder methods to his club mates. The methods of murder discussed here are very interesting, but this one has the weakest ending among the stories here. (view spoiler)[Much like The Human Chair, this one has a shocking twist negated by the follow-up “hahaha just kidding, it never actually happened” twist. Again, another story that could’ve been better if Ranpo doesn’t pull his punches and just go ahead with the initial twist ending. (hide spoiler)] Two Crippled Man A sleepwalker recounts his disease to a new friend. I keep guessing what is the twist throughout the story, and in the end Ranpo still surprised me. Nice one. The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture An encounter in a train leads to a strange story with an even stranger ending. A decent end to the collection that feels slightly different with the rest, perhaps due to the more atmospheric description. ~ So yeah, this is basically The Twilight Zone: Japanese Style. That’s certainly my kind of thing; lots of fun with murders, bizarre supernatural events, plot twists, and the dark corners of human mind.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Book Wyrm

    Despite his name being a Japanese pronunciation (Katakanification? What is the technical term for this?) of 'Edgar Allan Poe', Rampo doesn't feel like a rip off of the American author, but an extremely inventive creator of morbid and macabre stories, most of which will sit with you for far longer than you want. The Chair is a particularly unsettling account of voyeurism and home invasion, which will worry anyone who's had a pushy admirer. The Caterpillar is an utterly horrible tale of post-confli Despite his name being a Japanese pronunciation (Katakanification? What is the technical term for this?) of 'Edgar Allan Poe', Rampo doesn't feel like a rip off of the American author, but an extremely inventive creator of morbid and macabre stories, most of which will sit with you for far longer than you want. The Chair is a particularly unsettling account of voyeurism and home invasion, which will worry anyone who's had a pushy admirer. The Caterpillar is an utterly horrible tale of post-conflict damage and the breaking point of human empathy and spousal love. The rest of the stories delve into murder, revenge, human frailty and that particualry deformed version of human misery normally found in manga artists. If you do like Japanese comics, chances are you've already encountered these tales, as Rampo is rampantly plagerised and paid homage too in various formats. Get this and read the originals, they're bloody good.

  11. 5 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    Short stories set in Japan, the same type of thing as Edgar Allen Poe's. These dark and twisted tales aren't as well known as they should be. Great stuff.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    The Japanese writer Hirai Taro (1894-1965) took the nom de plume Edogawa Rampo as a sign of his reverence for the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and is regarded as the first and greatest Japanese writer of mystery stories. This collection of nine of his stories, published in 1956, represents the first appearance of his work in English translation. Its title reflects, of course, the debt the author felt he owed to Poe. Only one of the stories is a mystery in the "detective story" sense, "The Psychologic The Japanese writer Hirai Taro (1894-1965) took the nom de plume Edogawa Rampo as a sign of his reverence for the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and is regarded as the first and greatest Japanese writer of mystery stories. This collection of nine of his stories, published in 1956, represents the first appearance of his work in English translation. Its title reflects, of course, the debt the author felt he owed to Poe. Only one of the stories is a mystery in the "detective story" sense, "The Psychological Test," and really, as it acknowledges, it's more of a Crime and Punishment riff with a rather weak piece of psychologizing appended. The others are indeed Poe-ish -- they're macabre tales, all of them fantasticated in the sense that they seem designed to spark the imagination rather than make us believe them, some of them also fantasticated in the sense that their rationales transcend the natural. Of the former "The Human Chair" is the standout: an ugly master carpenter creates a chair that he can secretly hide inside so as to enjoy the sensation, and the invasion of privacy, when people, especially attractive women, wriggle their bottoms on his lap. In the latter category I very much enjoyed the moving final tale in the collection, "The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture": through a concatenation of circumstances a man falls accidentally in love with an embroidered illustration of a beautiful women, and engineers the situation such that he can, likewise in stitched form, join her in a picture. Of the other tales, some are good and some are a bit so-so. Many display, like "The Human Chair," a somewhat kinky attitude toward sex that might have been acceptable in the Japanese mainstream at the time but perhaps explains why it took a while for the stories to appear in the tighter-assed West. Because of this aspect, and because of a certain ruthlessness of view, I was often reminded of the work (for grownups!) of Roald Dahl; Saki came to mind once or twice too. I wouldn't describe Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination as a collection of glittering prizes, but it's a very readable introduction to a writer of some historical significance.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clint

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. While this wasn't quite as good as I was thinking it was going to be, it was, at times, much weirder. The first story, The Human Chair, was one of the best, but then, at the end of the story, just thrown on in the last couple of paragraphs, you find out it wasn't real, "but don't you think I'm a good writer?" What the fuck? Why would he (the writer) do that? It was great, and would have ended perfectly if he'd just cut off the end. He did the exact same thing later in another story, The Red Cham While this wasn't quite as good as I was thinking it was going to be, it was, at times, much weirder. The first story, The Human Chair, was one of the best, but then, at the end of the story, just thrown on in the last couple of paragraphs, you find out it wasn't real, "but don't you think I'm a good writer?" What the fuck? Why would he (the writer) do that? It was great, and would have ended perfectly if he'd just cut off the end. He did the exact same thing later in another story, The Red Chamber, which was really great, and, like The Human Chair, had a really great ending (and one of the only endings in the book that I hadn't guessed), and then, exactly the same thing. "Haha, got you, that wasn't real, but don't you think I'm a good writer?" Again, what the fuck?! Why?! Just cut off the last few paragraphs, and you have a 10 out of 10 story. Another strange thing about this book, or the author, is that these are supposed to be mystery stories, of a sort, but the reader doesn't usually get any mysteries, he's just told what happened, and then how people found out about it, which isn't quite the same thing as a mystery story. Some stories were really unsettling, like The Caterpillar, about a deaf, dumb, and finally blinded mutilated stump of a man and his extremely unhappy, angry wife and extremely unhappy suicide. There are some supernatural elements, such as in the last story, The Traveler With the Pasted Rag Picture. And one of them, The Hell of Mirrors (I think that's the name of it) I would probably rank as one of the best short stories I've ever read, definitely one of my favorites. But beneath all this, they were mostly kind of average murder stories.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mobyskine

    I was expecting a more suspense and mysterious stories, but it was just okay. Fairly thrilled, fairly presented. I fancy the idea especially The Human Chair (I probably would think about the cabinet-maker every time I see a leather-covered armchair anywhere now, that was seriously spooky!), The Psychological Test and The Twins. Not that much atmospheric, but the crime plotting stuff was quite fascinating. Worth a read, somehow.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Edogawa Rampo (say the name out loud) is one of the great literary figures in 1920's Japan. His short stories are a combination of erotica mixed with horror. Within Japan he is probably one of the most well-known writers - and rightfully so, because's he fanastic. If you like gothic drug induced sexy stories - then this is for you. A must for those Opium nightmare nights!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chupacandrea

    You will never look at an armchair the same way again.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    I was fortunate to be able to visit Japan last summer and, of course, bought several books to bring home with me as souvenirs. This one caught my eye in a little shop in Kyoto so I thought I would take a chance on it. There are nine stories in this volume and taken together represent a nice sampling of the author’s work. The author’s real name is Hirai Taro (1894 – 1965) but his chosen pseudonym is of interest. Try saying “Edogawa Ranpo” three times fast and you might find a resemblance to a Jap I was fortunate to be able to visit Japan last summer and, of course, bought several books to bring home with me as souvenirs. This one caught my eye in a little shop in Kyoto so I thought I would take a chance on it. There are nine stories in this volume and taken together represent a nice sampling of the author’s work. The author’s real name is Hirai Taro (1894 – 1965) but his chosen pseudonym is of interest. Try saying “Edogawa Ranpo” three times fast and you might find a resemblance to a Japanese pronunciation of “Edgar Allan Poe”, an author who reportedly influenced him greatly. That is certainly evident in these stories, combining Poe’s first-person narrative style with similar plots including mystery/detective yarns as well as a couple with more mystical themes. It is rare that I can say about any anthology I’ve read that I absolutely loved every single piece in it. But it’s true for this collection. Each one immediately captured my interest and held it through the very end. Several times after I finished a story, I sat back and just thought about it, letting it last a while longer in my mind. That sounds corny, I know, but is true, nonetheless. All stories take place in Japan, but the characters and ideas are universal. There is a reason this author is considered the father of Japanese mystery writing. I feel lucky to have discovered this author for myself and am happy to discover that there are a number of his works (novels and short stories) available in English translation. Highly recommended!

  18. 4 out of 5

    R K

    Imagine becoming so famous in writing mysteries that you earn an award in your name that, till this day, is seen as a prestigious award to win for the mystery/thriller genre. Edogawa Ranpo was this man. He was influenced by infamous writers Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes and managed to create new stories that were infused in Japanese culture. Not all these stories are a 'who done i?' story. Most are from the perspective of the perpetrator and some are thrillers that leave Imagine becoming so famous in writing mysteries that you earn an award in your name that, till this day, is seen as a prestigious award to win for the mystery/thriller genre. Edogawa Ranpo was this man. He was influenced by infamous writers Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes and managed to create new stories that were infused in Japanese culture. Not all these stories are a 'who done i?' story. Most are from the perspective of the perpetrator and some are thrillers that leave you wondering on what you just read. The Human Chair 4/5 A very interesting way to creep you out. The way the chair was described made you squirm in the very chair you sat in to read this novel. It leaves you wondering on what was true and what was false. The Psychological Test 5/5 This is something completely original in regards to mystery. I have never ever encountered this in any mystery books, even modern ones. It's fantastic how forensic and psychological tests are utilized in this story. Ranpo goes so far as to show how the perpetrator manages to evade these tests. It's so logical in how it unfolds and yet, still manages to make you giddy when you see how evidence and results are used by the detective. One of the best mysteries I have ever read The Caterpillar5/5 This sent a shudder down my spine. It goes so far so how the effect taking care of an invalid has on both the caretaker and the patient. It's quiet disturbing and makes you really wonder how the ending was possible. The Cliff 3/5 This was a weaker story. It consists of a dialogue between A man and a women. They are married and are discussing how their marriage came to be. It's dark and definitely has a cliffhanger (:P) moment. The Hell of Mirrors 1/5 This was the weakest story. I'm not quite sure what Ranpo was trying to do here. The Twins 3/5 A very good tale show showcasing how not being careful can come back to bite you. It also shows how complicated committing a crime is. The Red Chamber 5/5 This was so sinister. Holy crap. After reading this you will become suspicious of anyone you meet. It's an utterly fantastic tale of how human psychology can be so easily twisted. It even makes you wonder if mental intention can be criminalized. This was one of the best thrillers I have read and my heart was pounding at the climax! Two Crippled Men 5/5 Another tale showcasing how humans can be manipulated by themselves and by others. The power of suggestion is the theme here. The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture 2/5 This was a bit random but not too bad. It's a bit hard to analyze mystery without spoiling the whole thing but these stories are ones that are left in you brain long after you've read it. It's surprising how something written so long ago can still freak you out. I can see why there is an award dedicated to him! Edogawa Ranpo definitely deserves to stand on the same pedestal as other famous crime/mystery/thriller authors and if that's your genre, then his name should be on your bookshelves.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    Excellent narrative craftsmanship shines forth in these tales. Quite enjoyable from the first story to the last in a crystalline manner. True to his American namesake, Edgar Allan Poe, a couple of these tales of Rampo's feature those weird moments of horrific imagery that makes Poe's tales so unique--even when there is little in the way of plot to recommend them--and in other tales, the careful step-by-step plotting of the mystery story is at work, revealing the narrative like a gallery worker s Excellent narrative craftsmanship shines forth in these tales. Quite enjoyable from the first story to the last in a crystalline manner. True to his American namesake, Edgar Allan Poe, a couple of these tales of Rampo's feature those weird moments of horrific imagery that makes Poe's tales so unique--even when there is little in the way of plot to recommend them--and in other tales, the careful step-by-step plotting of the mystery story is at work, revealing the narrative like a gallery worker slowly peeling the drapery from off of a painting until the denouement shines forth in all of its glory, a completed and satisfying picture. Rampo's much-heralded masterpiece of short fiction (I first read it at Harlan Ellison's urging in a collection of writers' favorite scary stories), "The Human Chair," lushly combines both an inspired flight of imagistic weirdness with an iron-clad narrative construction. Dry as a perfect Martini at sunset on a crisp fall afternoon. Also interesting, to me, was the translator's introduction. I always feel anxiety reading a Japanese or Chinese narrative in English, worried about how different a transmissive medium the character is from our own phonetic writing system. In this case, the translator explains that Rampo could understand English but not speak it and that he, similarly, knew spoken Japanese but not the written language. It took them five years of Rampo reading him the texts aloud and then re-checking the English sentences through his own knowledge of our Anglo-Saxon and Norman mishmash for the two to produce these few translations. I imagine, then, that this edition will remain the definitive Rampo in English. Delicate, precise, and enjoyable--with the occasional shiver. I wish they'd put another five years towards a second volume.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Favorite stories; The Human Chair, The Caterpillar, The Hell of Mirrors. Loved The Caterpillar, a war veteran is so disfigured and maimed that he resembles a caterpillar. I read that it was banned in nationalistic war mongering Japan, wonder why. It was also recently made into a movie.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    These nine stories are not horror but often not-quite-not-quite horror, and sometimes are something like mystery tales but with a twist of examining the psychological motivation behind the mystery more than anything like the crime. This combined with an excellent translation by James B. Harris imbues Ranpo's collection with an immediate sense of the classic and a helpful dose of the lurid and pulp. Much like the obvious influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Ranpo [note: Edogawa Ranpo is a play on E.A. P These nine stories are not horror but often not-quite-not-quite horror, and sometimes are something like mystery tales but with a twist of examining the psychological motivation behind the mystery more than anything like the crime. This combined with an excellent translation by James B. Harris imbues Ranpo's collection with an immediate sense of the classic and a helpful dose of the lurid and pulp. Much like the obvious influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Ranpo [note: Edogawa Ranpo is a play on E.A. Poe's name] is able to dance between melodrama and good story telling quite effortlessly. Notable stories include "The Human Chair", "The Caterpillar", "The Hell of Mirrors", and "The Red Chamber". "The Human Chair" is about a man who builds a chair that allows him to hide inside, and later starts to fall in love [or at least lust] with the women who sit on him and press against him without ever knowing he is there. I've written about it on my blog at http://www.wyrmis.com/blots/2014/30/b..., though that will spoil the ending so you might should read it first. "The Caterpillar" deals with a woman caring for a husband who is missing arms and legs and is death mute, and the name sort of speaks for itself. "The Hell of Mirrors" is a fairly literal title, being a story about a man obsessed with mirrors who eventually engages in an experiment to take it to an extreme. "The Red Chamber" is likely the weakest of the four, and suffers from a weak ending, but has a premise of a man who has killed dozens by simple psychological tricks - such as calling out "LOOK OUT!" as the cross the street to make them stumble all the while making it look like he was looking out for them - which is the kind of thing that mystery fans can chew on for days. Despite the weird fiction flavor of many of these, the only story that has any real supernatural bent is "The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture". The rest are firmly in the psychological mystery realm, even when they tap into horror motifs. Well recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bei

    Presented in short stories, these tales did not strive for technical complication in plots, but guided the reader through the entwining lane ways in the darker part of human psyche. There is a lot to miss about classic Japanese mystery writings in early 1900s, and this is an excellent introduction to Rampo's universe. Many elements in this book are of typical fascination in this genre: mirrors, wells, twins, sleepwalking, obsessions… Not all the stories are about killing, and not all the killing Presented in short stories, these tales did not strive for technical complication in plots, but guided the reader through the entwining lane ways in the darker part of human psyche. There is a lot to miss about classic Japanese mystery writings in early 1900s, and this is an excellent introduction to Rampo's universe. Many elements in this book are of typical fascination in this genre: mirrors, wells, twins, sleepwalking, obsessions… Not all the stories are about killing, and not all the killings were done as murders. Some are darker (e.g. the Caterpillar) and some are more bizarre (e.g. the Hell of Mirrors), but overall the collection is well balanced and provides an entertaining read. Some stories were told with the murderer as the first-person narrator (e.g. the Psychological Test), inviting the reader to take the side with the killer on each calculating step. Although the innocent suspect is often described as having a "weak character" whilst the real killer being shrewd and composed, there is a certain degree of compassion between the lines towards the seemingly less capable "fools". Below are the stories included in this volume. My personal favourite was the Human Chair. Despite its somewhat light-handed ending, it puts an image in my head that I probably won't look at an armchair the same way again. The Human Chair The Psychological Test The Caterpillar The Cliff The Hell of Mirrors The Twins The Red Chamber Two Crippled Men The Traveller with the Paster Rag Picture

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    The stories in Edogawa Rampo's collection “Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination” are ostensibly mysteries; in fact Rampo (according to the introduction) was Japan's first writer of mysteries. Many of these tales deal with obsessions of one kind or another. Often sexual obsessions, or obsessions connected in some with sex or have a sexual element. Some stories aren't crime stories at all - “The Hell of Mirrors” is simply about a man obsessed by mirrors, obsessed to the point of bringing abou The stories in Edogawa Rampo's collection “Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination” are ostensibly mysteries; in fact Rampo (according to the introduction) was Japan's first writer of mysteries. Many of these tales deal with obsessions of one kind or another. Often sexual obsessions, or obsessions connected in some with sex or have a sexual element. Some stories aren't crime stories at all - “The Hell of Mirrors” is simply about a man obsessed by mirrors, obsessed to the point of bringing about his own insanity. The most impressive story, for me, was “The Traveller with the Pasted Rag Picture”, a tale that that is both truly weird and rather touching. Other stories, such as “The Red Chamber” and “Two Crippled Men”, are crime stories, in fact very original and offbeat crime stories. Most of the stories could just as easily be described as weird fiction. Some are very weird indeed. “The Human Chair”, for instance. It's about a man who turns himself into a chair (with a very clever twist at the end). Rampo's stories have a flavour of their own - they're definitely not just western crime fiction in a Japanese setting. He also has the ability to give his stories very satisfying twists at the end. A wonderfully odd and different short story collection, and an interesting blend of crime stories and horror.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Someone had reccomended this to me and I approached it with hesitation because. lot of times people recommend books and they turn out to be awful. I'm glad I read this though and found that once I started it, I simply couldn't stop. it's a great introduction to a writer few have heard of, but should read. Rampo had a gift for story telling and picking a genre for this is difficult. Each story blends seamlessly into the next plunging you into a world that few writers delve into. It's a collectio Someone had reccomended this to me and I approached it with hesitation because. lot of times people recommend books and they turn out to be awful. I'm glad I read this though and found that once I started it, I simply couldn't stop. it's a great introduction to a writer few have heard of, but should read. Rampo had a gift for story telling and picking a genre for this is difficult. Each story blends seamlessly into the next plunging you into a world that few writers delve into. It's a collection of weird, yet wonderful stories that are well written and influenced by Poe. It's a great introduction to a writer that sadly fell through the cracks. When you talk about the art of story telling, and weird fiction Rampo's name is never mentioned. As we look back at classic weird fiction and horror, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Writers like Rampo are rare and deserve to be read, and read often. Rampo knew how to craft a great story. He has a gift for creating these strange tales and makes it look easy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy Gentry

    Where has "The Human Chair" been all my life? I can't believe it took me this long to read the 20th-century Japanese weird-fiction writer Rampo. This short selection of stories was not only the first Rampo to be translated into English, but, according to the translator's preface from 1956, the first collection of any Japanese mystery stories to be translated into English. Some of the stories are truly disturbing, others silly; all of them are amazing in one way or another. For lovers of ETA Hoff Where has "The Human Chair" been all my life? I can't believe it took me this long to read the 20th-century Japanese weird-fiction writer Rampo. This short selection of stories was not only the first Rampo to be translated into English, but, according to the translator's preface from 1956, the first collection of any Japanese mystery stories to be translated into English. Some of the stories are truly disturbing, others silly; all of them are amazing in one way or another. For lovers of ETA Hoffmann, Edgar Allen Poe, and the early-20th-century Weird Tales genre, this is pure delight.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Winter Branch

    Cool, creepy, nicely crafted short stories from Japanese writer Edogawa Rampo. Sadly, very little of his work has been translated. The only shortcoming of this collection is that the themes of the stories start to blend together. But most of the stories are 5 star status such as the two stand-outs The Human Chair (a guy hides himself inside a chair to experience contact with others), The Caterpillar (a limbless war veteran is slowly tortured by his resentful lover).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Riar

    I know Edogawa Rampo through the work of Suehiro Maruo and his opus The Strange Tale of Panorama Island. To my surprise, this is his first ever work that being translated in English. I think this book is a good entrance for anyone who curious to read the twisted mind of Edogawa Rampo. The Human Chair and The Red Chamber are both my favourites from nine of short stories bundled in this book—I love The Physiological Test, The Hell of Mirrors and The Caterpillar as well, however the aforementioned s I know Edogawa Rampo through the work of Suehiro Maruo and his opus The Strange Tale of Panorama Island. To my surprise, this is his first ever work that being translated in English. I think this book is a good entrance for anyone who curious to read the twisted mind of Edogawa Rampo. The Human Chair and The Red Chamber are both my favourites from nine of short stories bundled in this book—I love The Physiological Test, The Hell of Mirrors and The Caterpillar as well, however the aforementioned stories are top of the top. The Human Chair is chillingly interesting. Its eeriness that stamped Rampo’s style of ‘fear of the unknown’ and mystery that I fond—this also supported by his unpredictable style of writing that shifted the narrative unexpectedly. In The Physiological Test Rampo uses the character of detective to solve a crime case that seems really simple for the reader but complex for the character—the attempt of decoding the puzzle is really clever thus makes this detective story really really good. On the other hand, The Caterpillar is fall on the ‘imagination’ side of Rampo rather his ‘mystery’ approach of storytelling. Since it is Rampo’s writing, indeed it is a fucked-up almost BDSM love story between war veteran and his wife—according to the foreword, this story was banned by the Japanese government due portraying the dark side of war. The sexual tension in this story is really subtle and implicit considered the nature of the narrative and subject matter. I believe in 2010 Koji Wakamatsu has adapted this story to film in which I need to see it now! The Hell of Mirrors is fascinating in a way it describes our culture of representation ironically. Our obsession with images and reflection through optics portrayed almost comically satire. The Red Chamber is an ode to nihilism. I love Rampo’s approach on moral validation in this story as he writes poetically on how we questioning our action and its causal effect—he brilliantly sets a character that explains an argument that we might once in our lifetime kill someone through our non-direct action. The setting of a group of people gathered together to listen a strange and weird story is peculiar. This setting taken my imagination to think the league of ruthless gentlemen of secret society that hobby is abusing people. However, with little cynicism The Red Chamber ends in light direction. I hope more of Rampo’s writing being translated in the future. Or perhaps I need to learn proper Japanese to fully understand the essence of Rampo’s imagination and mystery.

  28. 5 out of 5

    cindy

    The name Edogawa Rampo has pique my curiousity for a long time. First of all, it was the name choosen by Shinichi Kudou to be his pseuodonim along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's in 'everlasting' manga series Detective Conan. He also seems to be one of the classic writers like Akutagawa or Kawabata or Mishima, but even so, looking for his works in English is truly pain in the *ss. I only managed to read a handful of short stories, which by the way, interested me more. So, long story shorted, I rea The name Edogawa Rampo has pique my curiousity for a long time. First of all, it was the name choosen by Shinichi Kudou to be his pseuodonim along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's in 'everlasting' manga series Detective Conan. He also seems to be one of the classic writers like Akutagawa or Kawabata or Mishima, but even so, looking for his works in English is truly pain in the *ss. I only managed to read a handful of short stories, which by the way, interested me more. So, long story shorted, I reaaaaally love I could own this book, in real paper and ink. Especially coz it was a gift from the Novemberian club, and my fairy godmother, mba ASDewi, picked and sent this to me on my birthday. Love it. Love it. LOVE IT. Thank you mba Dewi and all novemberian friends. I'll treasure this book for always. :) Note My thoughts for each story are in the progress updates.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Morgoth Jr

    Enjoyed it well enough, as an airplane read! The Human Chair was successfully disturbing, and there's a few turns of phrases and concepts in there worth an 'oooh'. The method by which Rampo's writing handles a modernizing Japan's fears of alienation is ironic, given the obvious heavy influence Western gothic literature and detective novels had on him. If you're into Japanese literary history, or like gothic horror and have an hour or two to kill, you won't be disappointed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    Well written overall, the back half was rather dull. Those stories focused on retelling an experience and are pedestrian. The first three or four stories draw out certain senses and moods extremely well and are much more vivid. Happy to have read this and would like to explore more of Rampo’s work.

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