Tattoos are only skin deep
A locked room murder mystery. A hidden underbelly of society, populated by beautiful tattooed women who work behind doors opened by secret codes. A legend of three ancient sorcerers, linked together to carry a curse. A mysterious and driven older professor, known by the name of “Dr. Tattoo” for his obsession with skinning the bodies of tattooed corpses so that he may collect and preserve their unique art. A naive and idealistic young forensics student, seduced and far in over his head
These are the elements that author Takagi Akimitsu has woven together in order to create his grand design. Using the background of post-War Japan, a place bombed into despair and turned upside-down, he crafts his tale with precision and style, each element added at precisely the right time to extract the most impact from its revelation. This is a brilliant detective novel.
Kinue Nomura is a sensual and beautiful woman of the underworld, her skin carrying the last known tattoo of her famous father. An Orochimaru design, its twisted serpent design snares any man who she reveals it to. Kenzo Matsushiita is the young forensic student, just back from the War where he served as a medic, he is eager to put his past behind him and work towards his doctorate, but his love of mystery novels and the excitement of Kinue assure that he will follow another path.
Also involved is the world of the Japanese tattoo, and art form beautifully described in the novel by Takagi, and one completely illegal during the setting of this novel. The taboo nature of the art, the sexual nature of decorated naked flesh, the secrets hidden behind the ink, all of these add a primal feel to the logical structure of the crime, creating a balance of order and chaos, of body and brain. As someone who is also privileged to carry a Japanese tattoo, I really appreciated the sincerity and detail of this part of the novel.
Special note must also be made of the translation, which was flawless. The translator did a perfect job of maintaining Japanese words were appropriate, giving explanations of cultural terms rather than unsuitable translations.