Three Steps Off the Beaten Path: June 2015

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Author: Asandra al'Terra, June 2015

Dear Tar Valon,

For many of our readers, summer is finally getting started (although, at the moment of writing, New York City is actually awfully cold).

For better or worse, I’ve already managed to get tan lines from various running equipment, which is both frustrating and awkward.

In spite of the fact that it already feels like summer is in full swing, I haven’t gone to the beach yet, and I can’t wait to get going. There’s nothing better than a day in the sun with a bottle of wine (or two…), delicious snacks, and a great book.

The book community talks a lot about “beach reads” and what exactly they entail; personally, I’m of the view that it’s anything you can bring to the beach. :p With that being said, my personal preference entails page-turners in the genres of mystery, fantasy, or horror.

The fact is, a lot of books of those genres are authored by white, male, American authors – so, the kind of people I want to avoid dominating my reading list. For this reason, during the summer, I’ll be focusing my column on the genres of mystery, fantasy, and horror – and how to find more diverse reads in them.

Up this month: mystery (and thrillers!)…and I’m putting the spotlight on Japan.

Three Steps off the Path: June 2015

“Japanese Mysteries and Thrillers” edition

Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination – Edogawa Rampo

(Male | POC | Japan | ? | 5*)

Say the author’s name ten times fast. Edogawa Rampo. Eh-doh-ga-wa Ram-poh. Ed.. Edgar Alan Poe?

The name is a pen name, and yes, it was inspired by the American mystery writer.

In this book, Edogawa Rampo presents his own set of Tales of Mystery and Imagination. None of the stories is quite like any of the others, and most are not based on the supernatural. Many of them have stayed with me constantly – especially The Human Chair (I have never looked at my friend’s overstuffed armchair the same way since) and The Caterpillar.

The Tattoo Murder Case – Akimitsu Takagi

(Male | POC | Japan | ? | 5*)

This book is, as you would expect, about a case surrounding murder and tattoos. In particular, the body of Kinue Nomura is found – or rather, what’s left of it. Her torso, which had been beautifully tattooed, is not at the scene. Kenzo Matsushita helps his brother, a detective in the Tokyo police force, find her.

It’s an excellent little mystery, although it gets a bit deus ex machina at the end. Even so, it’s well-paced, and the end is very satisfying. Highly recommended!

Out – Natsuo Kirino

(Female | POC | Japan | ? | 90%: 5*/ 10%: 3*)

Two important things about this book: it’s incredibly violent, and the last 30 pages (in my opinion) kind of ruined the book and went against everything else that had occurred in it. With that being said: the remaining ~370 were an unforgettable whirlwind of a read.

The story focuses on a group of women who work the night shift in the bento factory. One of them kills her husband, and the others… well, they help her dispose of the body.

In contrast to the previous book on the list – where there are few female characters, and none with any real agency – this is a refreshing change. Everyone is an awful person; everyone is very, very real.

What books would you include in this list? What books or themes would you like to see featured? Post in the comments, or send an email to!

As always, the criteria for this column involve books that meet at least one of the following: the author is not male, not white, not American, or not straight.
Key: (Sex [M/F/GQ/…] | Race [White/POC] | Country of Origin | Sexual orientation [L/G/B/Q/…] | Rating [X stars / TBR] )