"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.", G.K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"
Norizuki Rintarou is an author who has been discussed quite often by now, so I won't bother to introduce him. Even people who can't read Japanese have had a chance to read his work, as his price-winning Toshi Densetsu Puzzle has been published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine as An Urban Legend Puzzle in the Passport to Crime series. An Urban Legend Puzzle was also my first experience with Norizuki and I have been a great fan of his work ever since. Ellery Queen readers really should at least try this Japanese Queen, as the Norizuki Rintarou stories parallel the Queen stories quite closely.
I especially like Norizuki Rintarou's short story collections, where many of the best short stories of the new orthodox school can be found. I've discussed the first collection, Norizuki Rintarou no Bouken ("The Adventures of Norizuki Rintarou") before, and I might re-read Norizuki Rintarou no Shinbouken ("The New Adventures of Ellery Queen") for a review in the future, but the topic for today the third short story collection, Norizuki Rintarou no Kouseki ("The Exploits of Norizuki Rintarou"). Yes, that title not based on an Ellery Queen novel, but on the Conan Doyle/Carr Holmes pastiche.
And I've actually already discussed two of the five stories in this collection already. Equal Y no Higeki ("Equal Tragedy of Y") was originally written for the anthology Y no Higeki ("The Tragedy of Y"), while ABCD Houimou ("The ABCD Line") was an original story for the anthology ABC Satsujin Jiken ("The ABC Murders"). So I refer to those reviews for more about those two stories.
And while those two stories were obviously written with a certain theme in mind, it seems Chuugoku Kagyuu no Nazo ("The Chinese Snail Mystery") wasn't, according to the afterword. Even if the reader would think otherwise. Anyway, the Queenish title is no coincidence, because what did Norizuki Rintarou discover when they finally broke open the office room of the famous detective writer Kanuma? A room where everything was upside down. Chairs, the desk, the computer, all upside down. And a piece of rope attached to the floor with a loose in it. Kanuma, who should have been in the office, is found hanging from the ceiling in the room beneath the office. Yes, it's Norizuki's take on Queen's locked room The Chinese Orange Mystery. But with a definite snail theme. I've learned more about snails and how they reproduce and stuff than I would ever want to know. In Japanese. But as Norizuki says himself in the afterword, locked rooms are not his forte and while Chuugoku Kagyuu no Nazo isn't really a bad story, it certainly isn't a very strong story either.
Both Toshi Densetsu Puzzle (An Urban Legend Puzzle) and Ishindenshin ("Tacit Understanding and Hanging") follow the same set-up, which is a parallel of how Ellery and Inspector Queen work. In both stories Chief Inspector Norizuki asks his son to help him with some case he is working on and by analyzing the facts and discussing the case, Rintarou arrives at the truth. This armchair/consulting detective model is one I especially like (c.f. the Puzzle Club stories by Ellery Queen) and actually one of the reasons why I prefer short stories (this model doesn't work really well in long stories).
Toshi Densetsu Puzzle is a story, that in my eyes, does almost everything great. The theme of the story, urban legends is a very interesting one and just like with Chuugoku Kagyuu no Nazo, Norizuki gives quite a bit of interesting background information on the theme. The story also proceeds at a nice pace and is just done almost perfect. The one negative point is that the trick of the story can be seen through almost immediately if you are not taken in by the blind spot Norizuki is trying to create. The writer himself confesses it's a rather easy story, but this is overall a great story.
The setup of Ishindenshin is the same, but the story itself is not as interesting. Chief Inspector Norizuki has trouble figuring out a murder on a young woman, who had been hanged in her room in order to make it look like suicide. Working through the many strange points of the case, father and son finally arrive at the truth, but is it a good one? The motive (in particular, the way the motive was set up) was one I hadn't seen before and it was distinctly modern, so I wasn't really prepared for it. A certain leap of thought had to be made if you're not familiar with a certain field, which I didn't really like. I think the main problem was a very sound and interesting one, so maybe I would've liked this story if I actually knew *that* existed.
But Norizuki Rintarou's exploits were overall quite interesting. I am a little disappointed with the lack of bibliophilia this time and most stories seem too strongly connected to other, major works, so it lacks a bit of its own identity compared to the previous collections, but still a solid work that shows that orthodox detectives are still very much alive in this world.
Original Japanes title(s): 法月綸太郎 『法月綸太郎の功績』/「イコールYの悲劇」/「中国蝸牛の謎」/「都市伝説パズル」/「ABCD包囲網」//「縊心伝心」