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15 top crime books set in Japan

From its rich traditions and intriguing history to its distinctive art and bright city lights, Japan has provided inspiration for many outstanding crime novels.

If you’re on the hunt for a good book to help immerse yourself in Japanese culture and landscape then look no further. Whether you love detective fiction, psychological suspense or a good old thriller, phenomenal bestsellers and cult classics from the likes of Natsuo Kirino, Haruki Murakami and Shuichi Yoshida that will keep you engrossed for hours.

Here’s our pick of the best books set in Japan.

15 top crime books set in Japan:

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Out is a psychologically taut masterpiece from the queen of Japanese crime.

Taking an unflinching look into the darkest recesses of society and the human soul, it provides an unsettling reminder that the desperate desire for freedom can make the most ordinary person do the unimaginable.

Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

Villain by Suichi Yoshida

A young woman is brutally murdered on a remote mountain road. A young construction worker, Yuichi, is on the run – but is he guilty?

This is an eerie, atmospheric psychological mystery that delves into the dark heart of Japan – a world of seedy sex hotels and decaying seaside towns; a world of loneliness, violence and desperation.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Murakami’s literary thriller follows a surreal and elaborate quest that takes us from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan.

It blends mythology and mystery perfectly, resulting in a story that’s both quirky and captivating in equal measure.

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicholas Obregon

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon

Nicolas Obregon’s debut crime novel introduces Inspector Iwata, a detective with a dark past and an uncertain future who has been newly transferred to Tokyo’s homicide department.

Inspired by the real-life unsolved murder of the the Miyazawa family in Setagaya, Blue Light Yokohama is a haunting, gripping read.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

When Detective Kusanagi tries to piece together the events preceding a murder, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. Nothing quite makes sense, and it will take a genius to understand the genius behind this particular crime.

Despite revealing the culprit at the very beginning, this clever, cunning whydunnit doesn’t fail to surprise and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Two prostitutes are murdered in Tokyo. Twenty years previously both women were educated at the same elite school for young ladies, and had seemingly promising futures ahead of them. But in a world of dark desire and vicious ambition, for both women, prostitution meant power.

This unconventional and unique crime thriller with an outrageous, anarchic narrator shows us a dark, chilling side to the lives of women in modern Japan.

Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler

Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler

In an attempt to run from his mistakes, Alex Malloy leaves London for Japan to find the perfect escape – only to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom, because things can always get worse.

Fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay will love this dramatic, fast-paced read-in-one-sitting thriller with a vivid setting and unlikeable characters a’plenty.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the wedding of a son of the Ichiyanagi family. But on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream and the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house.

A scruffy amateur sleuth and a seemingly impossible crime make this entertaining tale one of Japan’s greatest murder mysteries.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

For five days, the parents of a seven-year-old Tokyo schoolgirl sat and listened to the demands of their daughter’s kidnapper. They would never learn his identity. They would never see their daughter again.

What follows is a complex, slow-burning, insightful and methodical picture of policing in Japan that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

Four twenty-somethings share an apartment in Tokyo. In the next-door apartment something disturbing is going on. And outside, in the streets around their apartment block, there is danger in the air.

Parade tells a tense, disturbing, thrilling tale of life in the city – like Friends but with fewer laughs and much more violence.

Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Real World by Natsuo Kirino

In a suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, four teenage girls drift through a hot smoggy August and tedious summer school classes – until one’s neighbour is found brutally murdered. Convinced the culprit is the high school misfit, the four girls become irresistibly drawn into a treacherous world of brutality and seduction.

Suspenseful and well-crafted, this is a thriller that gets into the minds of its characters, painting a dark portrait of teenage life in Japan.

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

This incisive, compelling true crime book is an account of the case of Lucie Blackman, a 21-year-old who stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever – until the following winter when her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.

People Who Eat Darkness is part non-fiction thriller, part courtroom drama and part biography of both victim and killer. It is the story of a young woman who fell prey to unspeakabale evil, and of a loving family torn apart by grief.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead – in a room locked from the inside. His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women. Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural Japan.

This classic locked room mystery is perfect for anyone who loves a good puzzle. It’s clever, intriguing and an absorbing whodunnit.

Audition by Ryu Murakami

Audition by Ryu Murakami

Documentary-maker Aoyama hasn’t dated anyone in the seven years since the death of his beloved wife – until he meets Yamasaki Asami, a young, beautiful and talented ballerina with a turbulent past. But there is more to her than Aoyama, blinded by his infatuation, can see, and by the time he discovers the terrifying truth it may be too late.

Get ready to feel a chill down your spine, because this violent read from the master of the psycho-thriller is as disturbing as they come.

Ring by Koji Suzuki

Ring by Koji Suzuki

In this novel that inspired the Hollywood and Japanese film series, everyone who watches a chilling videotape with supernatural powers meets a deadly end.

Part detective fiction, part horror, this thriller from the ‘Japanese Stephen King’ is not for the faint-hearted.

Have we missed any of the best crime books set in Japan? Let us know in the comments below!

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