「結局あなたたち探偵の存在は、あなたの云 う『それだけ』のものなのでしょう？ シャーロック・ホームズもエラリー・クイーンももういない。彼らが探偵として勝ち得たはずの誇りは、現代において既に失われているのです。姿かたちばかり 彼らに似せた、まるで紙人形のような人たち！探偵たちの終わりを戦争のせいにしますか？時代の流れのせいにしますか？好きなように何かを責めるといいです ネ。でも、これだけは云えるのです。探偵は生きていてはいてかない。死ぬべきなのです。」
"Some rich guy wants the mirror. He came to my place. That's all."
"In the end, 'that's all' is all there is to you detectives, right? Sherlock Holmes and Ellery Queen are no more. The pride they fought for as detectives, has been lost in the modern age. You only look like them in appearence. Like paper dolls! Are you blaming the war for this ragnarok for the detectives? The change in trend? You can blame whatever you want. But I'll tell you this. Detectives shouldn't be alive. They should be dead.",
"'Alice Mirror Castle' Murder Case"
I think that Alice in Wonderland is the non-detective novel referenced most often here, but I have to confess: I haven't read the book. Nor its sequel. Nor have I seen the Disney films. All I know of Lewis Carroll and Alice derives from writers like Queen and Arisugawa Alice. If you'd ask me about Alice in Wonderland, I could tell you about how it's an awesome source of inspiration for detective writers, but little more.
My first reading Kitayama Takekuni and it was a pleasant experience. As the main players in the novel are all (fairly genre savvy) detectives, the discussions they have on mechanical locked room tricks are very interesting, almost nearing the philosophical. Because all these chesspieces are so genre-savvy, the novel also clearly messes with the reader on a meta-level, and you always wonder how many levels you have to enter in the 'if Kitayma thinks I think that he thinks that I think...' game. The denouement shows that Kitayama manages to pull off hard to do things quite nicely. The locked room behind the small Alice Door is basically a rather gruesome variation on a very widely used locked room trick, but it was done so wonderfully with the Alice in Wonderland references that it manages to impress. What I liked most though was again how Kitayama (the murderer) makes uses of meta-level knowledge and justifies the locked room murder and the cut-up bodies in a way that works.
Thematically, this novel is very much like Ayatsuji's Jukkakukan no Satsujin, and it's certainly nice to read these two as a set. Discussions of the genre on a meta-level have of course been in detectives for ages, but it's nice to see how it develops as an actual field of study and how modern novels build on the knowledge to explore new realms. Once again, this is not a new practice, but it's a bit more rare to see in modern times. Well, it's a staple of New Orthodox novels, but a more global approach to it would be nice too, right?
The only thing I really, really didn't like was the characters' motivation for participating in the game. You'll probably never ever hear me talk about character motivation here again, but it's one thing to have characters that are brought to life to die (in most detective novels), but to have genre-savvy characters brought to life to die is something completely different. The characters know that they'll probably die if they go to the island to look for the Alice Mirror, but go nonetheless. For the money. I think I'd rather have a more nihilistic approach to accompany the dreamy atmosphere that's present anyway: a gathering of detectives who are destined to die, without all the 'we're in it for the money' justification, and without the utterly weird motive of the murderer.
One of these days I really have to read Alice in Wonderland though...
Original Japanese title(s): 北山猛邦 『『アリス・ミラー城』殺人事件』