"It was probably a dying message.’
I wasn't familiar with that word, so was taken aback by it.
"Dying message. A message left at the brink of death."
"The Tragedy of One"
To continue with the series of books that have waited too long: I'm pretty sure I bought this on the first night, maybe the second day I was in Tokyo. Over two years ago. And yes, this summer I'm intend to get rid of my backlog.
I remember that Norizuki Rintarou Ichi no Higeki ("The Tragedy of One") caught my eye in the Ekoda Book Off, because it was just so perfect: a novel by a writer inspired by Ellery Queen, with a title that clearly references Queen's Drury Lane series, of which the first three books are called The Tragedy of X, Y and Z. With the Drury Lane books ranking among my favorite EQ novels, I had high expectations for this book. It starts rather heavy though, with a mistaken child kidnapping. The intended victim was Yamakura Takashi, but his classmate Tomosawa Shigeru was kidnapped by mistake. It seems the kidnapper hasn't realized this though, so he demands that Takashi's father, Shirou, come bring the ransom money. Through unbelievable bad luck though, Shirou isn't able to give the money to the kidnapper and the dead body of Shigeru is found thrown away on a empty lot.
This is just the beginning of the tragedy though, as a hidden past between Shirou and Shigeru's mother (who has become quite unstable by the death of her son) makes things much more complex and add in a locked room murder and a dying message somewhere between the beginning and the conclusion and the reader is presented with a fairly big puzzle to solve.
Most reviews say this book has a very bitter aftertaste. And it does. The story is truly a tragedy (in the good sense of the word), something also accomplished because it's written from the viewpoint of Yamakura Shirou (thus The Tragedy of One -> first person perspective). I don't think I'd seen this earlier in Norizuki's writings and at times I was thinking I was reading something written by Higashino Keigo. The perspective change also resulted in less appearences by Norizuki Rintarou (the character, not the writer). The story also has a lot of developments (A LOT) which was kinda weird to me (as I'm more familiar with Norizuki's short stories, which don't feel as rollercoastery), so it did feel quite different. On the other side, with multiple fake solutions and a dying message, there is no denying this is a Norizuki Rintarou novel.
Norizuki Rintarou is not particularly good at locked room mysteries (as he says himself), but I have to admit he manages to avoid this problem in a very neat way in this novel. It's still a bit far-fetched and maybe something that have worked better in a short story, but this is a fairly creative way to cope with the locked room problem.
Ichi no Higeki is all in all quite good; it's better than Yuki Misshitsu and while I think that many readers will come up with the solution while reading this, it's competently structured and clued and make this at least a safe read with no real faults. Thematically, this book is followed by Ni no Higeki ("The Tragedy of Two"). I do have the book, but as I already listened to the radio drama (I want a full version of the opening theme!), Ni no Higeki isn't that high on the priority list.
Original Japanese title(s): 法月綸太郎 『一の悲劇』