Togawa, Masako 1933-

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TOGAWA, Masako 1933-

PERSONAL: Born March 23, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan.

ADDRESSES: Home—Japan. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Pantheon Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Writer. Actress in films, including Ryojin nikki and Oinaru genei. Also worked as a typist and a nightclub singer and owner.

AWARDS, HONORS: Ranpo Edogawa Award, 1962, for novel Oinaru Genei.


Oinaru gen'ei (crime novel), 1968, translation by Simon Grove published as The Master Key, Century (London, England), 1984, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1985.

Fukai shissoku (crime novel), 1968, translation by Simon Prentis published as Slow Fuse, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Nihon dokufuden, Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan), 1971.

Ryojin nikki (crime novel), 1971, translation by Simon Grove published as The Lady Killer, Century (London, England), 1985, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1986.

Hi no seppun (crime novel), translation by Simon Grove published as A Kiss of Fire, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1988.

Also author of Nemurenai yoru no hon, 1967; Saketa nemuri, 1968; Kaso gyoretsu, 1968; Yoru no pasupoto, 1968; Mitsu no aji, 1968; Motto keo o!, 1968; Aka kasa, 1969; Kamen no sei, 1969; Muma, 1969; Kari no jikoku, 1970; Seijo, 1971; Utsukushiki emonotachi, 1974; Dazai Osamu ron, 1975; Nijiiro no funsui, 1977; and Hanayakanaru hyoga, 1977.

ADAPTATIONS: Some of Togawa's works have been adapted as films, including Ryojin nikki, 1964, and Oinaru gen'ei, 1989.

SIDELIGHTS: Masako Togawa was earning a living as a nightclub singer when she began her writing career, jotting down her first efforts backstage between musical acts. By the time she was twenty-four, she had published her first mystery, Oinaru gen'ei, later translated into English as The Master Key. This book and subsequent mysteries won her both a popular following and literary acclaim. She has been frequently compared to the British novelist P. D. James, who is known for her highly literate mysteries, yet Togawa's stories of psychological suspense feature events more bizarre than those found in James's novels.

The Master Key begins with several uncommon events, which is quite typical in a Togawa novel. A man disguised as a woman dies in a traffic accident; a child is kidnapped; and a dead child is buried in the basement of an apartment house. Togawa then jumps twenty years ahead, when the links between these events are slowly revealed. One of the residents of the apartment house, a retired teacher named Yoneko Kimura, is the amateur sleuth attempting to solve the kidnapping that took place long before. "Although basically a crime novel, with an ending full of surprises, the book is also a penetrating study of loneliness and eccentricity," commented a writer for St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers.

Ryojin nikki, translated into English as The Lady Killer, tells the story of Ichiro Honda, a Japanese engineer who is married, but spends most of his night prowling through Tokyo's bars and nightclubs seducing women. When three of his conquests are found murdered, Honda becomes a suspect. In this novel, as in The Master Key, the author "shows a great deal of sympathy for the many Japanese women who lead lonely and unfulfilled lives," commented the essayist for St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. "Although Togawa is an active feminist, she recognizes that the low status of women is a generally accepted part of the Japanese social system and that women themselves are often their own worst enemies."

Fukai shissoku, translated into English as Slow Fuse, is the story Dr. Uemura, a young psychiatrist who is asked to examine a college student who has tried to take his own life. The student tells Uemura that he has murdered a woman, but when the doctor investigates, he finds the alleged victim to be quite alive. His investigations into the situation lead him ever deeper into a web of sex, betrayal, and murder. Dr. Uemura, a decent man, finds himself baffled by the decadent world of Japan's youth culture. "Togawa is a solid writer, and her skills . . . help make the first four chapters riveting," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The writer felt, however, that the rest of the book relied too heavily on Uemura's confrontations with various suspects and his observations of their reactions, making for a static narrative. A Salon reviewer called Slow Fuse "a disturbing and tough-minded book" and praised the author for a story that is "rendered with a quietly unsettling air of menace."



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Publishers Weekly, September 18, 1995, review of Slow Fuse, p. 109.


Salon, (December 2, 1995), review of Slow Fuse.*