13 Best Kyotaro Nishimura Books – Japanese Mystery Fiction

Kyotaro Nishimura was a highly acclaimed Japanese mystery fiction writer who left a lasting impact on the genre. His keen eye for detail, intricate storytelling, and character-driven narratives have won countless fans all over the world. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into Nishimura’s life, explore his major works, and suggest some of the best books that you shouldn’t miss. So let’s get started!

13 Best Kyotaro Nishimura Books - Japanese Mystery Fiction

Who is Kyotaro Nishimura?

Kyotaro Nishimura was a prolific Japanese author born on February 2, 1930, in Tokyo. He is best known for his mystery novels that are characterized by intricate plot twists, attention to detail, and well-developed characters.

Nishimura’s passion for writing was nurtured from an early age, thanks to his family’s literary background. His father was a famous translator, and his mother was a literary critic. After completing his education at Waseda University, Nishimura worked for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department before becoming a full-time writer.

A Brief Biography of Kyotaro Nishimura

Nishimura’s writing career spanned several decades, during which he wrote over 100 novels and numerous short stories. His works earned him several prestigious literary awards, including the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, the Edgar Award, and the Grand Prix de la Littérature Policière.

Nishimura’s writing style was unique and groundbreaking. He introduced a new level of complexity and psychological depth into the mystery genre, making his stories stand out from the rest. His books were not just about solving crimes but also explored social commentary and political themes, which was a significant departure from the traditional mystery genre.

Nishimura’s influence on Japanese mystery fiction cannot be overstated. He transformed the genre, inspiring and influencing contemporary writers and readers alike. His books continue to captivate audiences and are still widely read today.

The Legacy of Kyotaro Nishimura

Nishimura passed away in 1993, leaving behind a rich legacy of captivating and thought-provoking mysteries. His works have been translated into several languages and are enjoyed by readers all over the world.

His contribution to Japanese literature is immeasurable, and his influence on the mystery genre will continue to be felt for generations to come. Nishimura’s legacy is a testament to his talent, dedication, and passion for writing, and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest mystery writers of all time.

The Inspector Totsugawa Series

The Inspector Totsugawa series is one of Nishimura’s most enduring works. Set in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, the series follows the investigations of Inspector Totsugawa, a diligent police officer with a sharp mind and a keen eye for detail. Here are some of the highlights of this beloved series:

Introducing Inspector Totsugawa

Inspector Totsugawa is a complex and fascinating character who embodies the best of the Japanese detective tradition. He is diligent, methodical, and detail-oriented, but also compassionate and empathetic. Totsugawa’s investigations often take him into the seedy underbelly of Tokyo, where he must confront corruption, deceit, and betrayal.

One of the things that makes Totsugawa such a compelling character is his unwavering commitment to justice. He is not motivated by personal gain or glory, but by a deep sense of duty and responsibility to his fellow citizens. Totsugawa is a true hero in every sense of the word.

Top 5 Books in the Inspector Totsugawa Series

The Inugami Clan

The Inugami Clan – This book is often cited as one of Nishimura’s masterpieces. It follows Totsugawa as he investigates the strange and macabre murders of the Inugami family, a wealthy and eccentric clan with a dark past.

The Honjin Murders

The Honjin Murders – This book is a classic locked-room mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Totsugawa is called to investigate a brutal murder that takes place in a remote and isolated inn.

The Demon of Mount Oe

The Demon of Mount Oe – This book is a chilling and atmospheric tale that combines horror and mystery. Totsugawa must confront his own demons as he investigates a series of murders that seem to be linked to an ancient legend.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders – This book is based on a real-life unsolved mystery and is regarded as one of Nishimura’s most creative works. In it, Totsugawa must solve a bizarre string of murders that seem to be linked to the signs of the zodiac.

The Black Lizard

The Black Lizard – This book is a thrilling and suspenseful story that features one of Nishimura’s most memorable villains, the Black Lizard. Totsugawa must race against time to stop the Black Lizard from committing a heinous crime.

Each of these books is a masterpiece in its own right, showcasing Nishimura’s incredible talent for weaving intricate and engaging mysteries. The Inspector Totsugawa series is a must-read for anyone who loves crime fiction or Japanese literature.

The Evolution of Totsugawa’s Character

Throughout the series, Totsugawa’s character undergoes significant changes and growth. He starts out as a diligent and hardworking detective but gradually becomes more introspective and reflective. He is haunted by his past failures and becomes more conscious of his own mortality.

As Totsugawa ages, he begins to question his own methods and the justice system as a whole. He becomes more willing to bend the rules in order to achieve his goals, but never loses sight of his core values and principles. Totsugawa’s character journey is one of the series’ greatest strengths and is sure to resonate with readers.

In conclusion, the Inspector Totsugawa series is a true masterpiece of crime fiction. With its engaging characters, intricate mysteries, and vivid setting, it is sure to captivate readers for generations to come.

The Superintendent Otani Series

The Superintendent Otani series is another of Nishimura’s most popular works. Featuring a different protagonist than the Totsugawa series, the Otani series explores the complex and often brutal world of law enforcement. Here are some of the highlights of this gripping series:

Meet Superintendent Otani

Superintendent Otani is a complex and multi-layered character who embodies the best and worst of the police force. He is dedicated to his job and determined to maintain law and order, but he is also prone to violence and has a dark past. Otani’s investigations often take him into the seedy and dangerous underworld of Tokyo.

Despite his flaws, Otani is a character that readers can root for. His commitment to justice and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to protect the innocent make him a compelling protagonist. His internal struggles and personal demons also add depth and complexity to his character.

Top 5 Books in the Superintendent Otani Series

The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery – This book is a meditation on the nature of beauty and obsession. Otani investigates a series of murders that seem to be linked to a mysterious and reclusive artist.

The Red Locked Room

The Red Locked Room – This book is a classic locked-room mystery with a twist. Otani must solve a case in which the victim is found dead inside a locked room with no visible signs of entry or exit.

The Castle of the Red Sorcerer

The Castle of the Red Sorcerer – This book is a heart-pumping adventure that takes Otani on a journey to the remote and mysterious island of Shikoku. He must confront a dangerous and powerful criminal mastermind to solve the case.

The Devil’s Ditch

The Devil’s Ditch – This book is a haunting and atmospheric tale with supernatural elements. Otani investigates a series of disappearances that seem to be linked to an ancient cursed valley.

The Golden Goblin

The Golden Goblin – This book is an action-packed thriller that features a high-stakes heist and a dramatic chase across Tokyo. Otani must catch the mastermind behind a series of daring and audacious robberies.

Each book in the Superintendent Otani series is a standalone story that can be read independently, but readers will also enjoy following Otani’s character development and personal journey throughout the series.

The Development of Otani’s Character

Like Totsugawa, Otani’s character undergoes significant changes and growth throughout the series. He starts out as a ruthless and uncompromising law enforcer but gradually becomes more reflective and empathetic. He is haunted by his past mistakes and struggles to find meaning and purpose in his life. Otani’s character journey is a harrowing but rewarding experience for readers.

As the series progresses, readers will see Otani confront his inner demons and grapple with difficult moral dilemmas. He will also form new relationships and alliances that will challenge his worldview and force him to reevaluate his priorities. Through it all, Otani remains a compelling and complex character that readers will be invested in until the very end.

Standalone Novels by Kyotaro Nishimura

Although Nishimura is best known for his series, he has also written several standalone novels, each with its own unique style and theme. Here are some of our top picks:

Exploring Nishimura’s Standalone Works

Nishimura’s standalone novels offer a glimpse into his creative imagination and his ability to tell stories that transcend genres. Each book explores a different theme, from family drama to science fiction to historical fiction. Despite their differences, all of Nishimura’s standalone books are characterized by his trademark style and attention to detail.

Top 3 Standalone Novels to Start With

The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping

The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping – This book tells the story of a legendary thief who comes out of retirement to pull off one last heist. It is a thrilling and suspenseful ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Doll’s House

The Doll’s House – This book is a gripping and disturbing story about a seemingly normal family with a dark secret. It explores themes of isolation, identity, and the nature of evil.

Forbidden Castle

Forbidden Castle – This book is a historical fiction novel set in feudal Japan. It tells the story of a young man who must navigate the dangerous and treacherous world of samurai politics to protect his family.

Awards and Recognitions

Nishimura’s contributions to Japanese mystery fiction have not gone unnoticed. Throughout his career, he was awarded numerous prestigious literary awards in Japan and abroad. His books have been translated into multiple languages and have won acclaim from critics and readers alike.

Celebrating Nishimura’s Literary Achievements

Nishimura’s legacy continues to inspire and influence writers and readers all over the world. His contributions to the mystery genre and to Japanese literature as a whole will be remembered for generations to come.

The Influence of Nishimura’s Work on Future Writers

Nishimura’s impact on the mystery genre cannot be overstated. He paved the way for future writers to explore themes of social commentary, psychological depth, and character-driven narratives. His works continue to inspire and inform contemporary writers who are looking to push the boundaries of the genre.

So there you have it, our guide to the best Kyotaro Nishimura books. We hope this article has inspired you to dive deeper into Nishimura’s works and explore the rich and complex world of Japanese mystery fiction.


What did Kyotaro Nishimura do before becoming a novelist?

Prior to working as a novelist, Nishimura was a public servant, a security guard, and a private detective. His experience in these roles had a huge influence on his writing.

How many novels did Kyotaro Nishimura write?

After publishing Blue Train Express Murder Case in 1978, Nishimura began to release multiple novels a year. Throughout his career, he published over 400 books.

Which of Kyotaro Nishimura’s novels should people read first?

The Honjin Murders is a fantastic locked-room mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from the very first page. It’s a brilliant introduction to Nishimura’s beloved detective, Totsugawa, and Nishimura’s intricate, yet fast-paced prose.

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Eddison Monroe
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