Friday, May 20, 2011

The Adventure of the Yellow Face

「桃色の長いスカートを雪道にひきずっている姿は確かに女のようにも見えるが、その身長は六尺(約百八一・八センチ)をゆうに超えているとおもわせる。したがって、シルクハットで擦れ違う身なりの良い紳士はたちも皆彼女の肩までもない。(...) 擦れ違う人は皆目を伏せ、道をあけるようにしてさっと擦れ違う。擦れ違ってから後ろ姿をしげしげと見ている。まるで灯台である。灯台のような女が、人波の上ににょっきりと立って、それがしずしずとこっちへやってくる。だいぶ距離がつまってので見ると何とホームズさんである」

"The figure dragging her long peach-colored skirt through the snowy path surely looked like a lady, but it seemed like she was well over 1.80 meters long. And so all the fine gentlemen with their silk hats didn't even come up to her shoulders. People passing by left the path open and turned their gaze away. Almost all of them would look back after passing her. She was like a lighthouse. The lighthouse stood out of the wave of people and slowly came closer and closer to me. When the distance was closed and I looked up, the figure turned out to be Mr. Holmes."
"Souseki and the London Mummy Murder Case"

The room is dark. You can make out some shapes near the wall.
>> Look Around
>> You See A Light Switch
>> Use Light Switch
>> The Room Lightened Up

I think that Sherlock Holmes has worked with or against every big name by now. Jack the Ripper, Arsene Lupin, Count Dracula, Cthulhu, Batman, Scooby-Doo, Edogawa Conan.... Usually, I stay away from them though. Most of them aren't very interesting anyway, or not very convincing. I like the Lupin ones for example, but only when I read them with a Lupin-mindset, and not a Holmes-mindset. I can't even imagine how a confrontation between Holmes and Dracula would go.

So I'm not sure why I bought Shimada Souji's Souseki to London Miira Satsujin Jiken ("Souseki and the London Mummy Murder Case"). A crossover between Sherlock Holmes and... Natsume Souseki, eminent figure in the history of modern Japanese literature. At first, this seemed like a very unlikely idea. At least, I couldn't really imagine Souseki as half of a crime-fighting duo. He was more like... the man on some of my 1000 yen bills. It seems however that when Souseki was studying in England (1901-1903), there was a strange incident of him moving quite around a bit in London, changing lodgings four or five times, before he settled on his main lodgings. People have wondered why he moved that much. And here that mystery is finally revealed.

Souseki to London Miira Satsujin Jiken is a parody split in two distinct parts. All the uneven chapters are written by Souseki, while all the even chapters are written by Dr. John H. Watson. The story begins when Souseki decides to consult Holmes at 211B Baker Street, because he has been harrassed by strange voices during his sleep for some time now, every time saying he has to move out of his lodgings. Which he has done now several times. Explaining him moving around London. But it's getting a bit irritating, so he would like for the voices to stop. And who better to consult than that brilliant detective? Holmes quickly assures Souseki that the voices should stop now that he has consulted Holmes. Right after Souseki's visit, Holmes is consulted on a totally different case though: a man has mummified within a single night, within a room which the victim had sealed himself with nails on the door and windows. The victim had been cursed when traveling in China and it seems that the curse has finally caught up with him. As there are few Far-East Asians in London, Holmes decides to ask Souseki's assistance with this case for his expect knowledge.

You'd think that a locked room mystery by Shimada would be more interesting, but the main problem was a very basic one with no real particulars. Well, except for the fact that a man changed into a mummy over the course of one night. And he had a piece of paper with seeminly Japanese writings in his month. And it was a locked room. Oh, and lizard were walking around the room and a Chinese (actually Japanese) armor and a Buddhist statue were also lying around. But no other particulars.

But that didn't really matter, because this story was hilarious. The book is split in two parts: all the uneven chapters are written by Natsume Souseki, while the even chapters are written by Dr. John H. Watson. It's the differences in the accounts of the two that is fantastic. Watson, our trusty chronicler, brings us our familiar Holmes, a brilliant man with fantastic powers of observation and deduction who solves the locked room mystery with his usual flair.

Souseki brings us the story of the madman Holmes, who says things that make no sense at all and who needs a doctor besides him every minute of the day in order to keep him in check. A once brilliant detective who is now mentally broken. Holmes had been receiving treatment for some years now (The Final Problem - The Empty House are cover-up stories), but still hasn't recovered. So he deduces that Souseki is a Mr. Clark (Souseki had taken the wrong hat with him), he walks around dressed like a rather unconvincing woman, suspects Souseki of being Moriarty and he has developed the tendency to scream and become very violent when it becomes apparent that his deductions are wrong. Souseki's depiction of himself differs widely too between the two records; he is received in a normal way by the servants of the house of the victim in his account, while Watson's records show that Souseki was called a Yellow Demon by the butler. Both accounts are of course written in the proper way and Souseki's chapters are pretty amusing, written from the viewpoint of one of the first Japanese persons to visit modernized England.

The locked room was a bit disappointing, coming from a big name like Shimada, but the story is so much amusing that I forgive him. I wouldn't call Souseki to London Miira Satsujin Jiken a masterpiece, but I had a fun time reading this.

Original Japanese title(s): 島田荘司 『漱石と倫敦ミイラ殺人事件』


  1. Oh, this new look will take some time, ah, getting use to – and I actually miss the Kindaichi crossword logo!

  2. The look is not definite yet (totally making it up as I go), so it'll probably change a bit today. I was trying for the Conan-look, but it's kinda hard to pull off. Harder than the Furuhata Ninzaburou look at any rate.

    The crossword is coming back, I was just looking for new keywords ^_~