An author finds himself investigating some threatening letters sent to a woman who believes that they are from an old flame. The author, however, believes that the mysterious letter-writer is a famous detective-story writer who had disappeared months before. The story takes on a more complicated twist when a crime is committed…
“The beast in the shadows” is a truly peculiar detective story, based completely on the characters’ psychology and their ability to wear masks which hide one identity after the other, eventually wrong-footing the reader with a dream-like solution of which the main character himself is doubtful, along the lines of a topos of eastern literature which is treated with masterful skill. The mysterious murder ends up by becoming an obsession for the main character who falls for the woman’s charms and embarks on a murky relationship with her that colours the novel with a sophisticated morbidity.
A remarkably modern read, especially for a novel that was written more than ninety years ago; recommended to those who love this genre and to those who are interested in learning more about Japanese literature. In Italy, Ranpo Edogawa is an almost unknown author but he is very famous in his country and Ellery Queen had already deservedly sung his praises.
Translation by Paola Roveda (edited by Ester Tossi)