"A person without an alibi can't be the murderer. That's Murphy's Law in mystery"
The start of the academic year is never easy, but I guess the fact that I only had two classes a week last semester did make me kinda... lazy. And with these changes in my spare time, I actually have to find out when to read books between studying (instead of figuring out when to study between reading books). A paradigm shift.
Anyway, today's victim is Nikaidou Reito's Karuizawa Magic. This novel is the first in the Mizuno Satoru series, but like always, I never read things in order, so I've reviewed a couple of the later novels already. But to introduce the series shortly: the Mizuno Satoru series obviously deals with the titular Mizuno Satoru, a young man who with a shady, yet humorous past, too many friends to count and rather otaku-ish interests. His looks also make him very popular with the opposite gender (until he actually opens his mouth and starts talking, that is). The series is split into two parts, one part dealing with Mizuno's student years, while the second part deals with his years as a working man.
Karuizawa. Which might seem nice, but it turns out that a) the deputy-director of the business-partner hotel was killed just as they left the hotel, b) the director himself was killed in the same train Mizuno and Yukari travelled on to Karuizawa and c) they manage to come across a couple of other corpses during their time in Karuizawa. So the police is very, very suspicious of them. And yes, they seem to be justified in that, right? In good old fashioned detective-style, it's up to Mizuno to prove his (and Yukari's) innocence.
I hate to make the awful pun, but Karuizawa Magic is really karui (light). It's clearly a travel mystery like the novels by Nishimura Kyoutarou and Uchida Yasuo. Which can be entertaining themselves, but I was expecting a bit more of Nikaidou Reito. The novel has some neat little premises (a man found dead on top of his cottage's roof, a man whose eyeballs have been scooped out), but the atmosphere surrounding these 'horrible' events is kinda light-hearted, making these incidents seem almost trivial. Had this been a Nikaidou Ranko case, the dark and almost devilish tone of these murders would certainly have been more prominent, I think. Now it's 'oh, we found a man whose eyeballs have been scooped out. Let's have a funny scene with the police and Mizuno arguing').
This overall lightness is made even more apparent because little is done with Mizuno's otaku-tendacies. Some of the later novels do make use of this and they are a lot more entertaining. For example, Collector no Fushigi, as a locked room mystery, was not surprising, but Nikaidou's expert knowledge on Tezuka Osamu and rare book collectors' culture made it a very entertaining novel. The short story collection Mizuno Satoru no Daibouken also featured some stories that entered into 'otaku' spheres (for example the Yokomizo Seishi fanclub). The character of Mizuno Satoru, who has been all over Asia and with knowledge about all kinds of topics is a great plot-vehicle, allowing the reader to enter the world of 'specialists' on all kinds of fields (from rare collector's figures to stargazing), but sadly enough, none of this is found in Karuizawa Magic.
In fact, I finished the book with a feeling of 'so....this was it?'. I wasn't happy with it, not mad with it, nothing. I just finished it. It's just very.... bland. If I hadn't read other Mizuno Satoru novels before, I think I'd have given up on the series at this point.
Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人 『軽井沢マジック』