Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Glass Domed Clock

"Professor! Niet te vroeg juichen! Hoe laat is het? Tingelingeling!"
"De Speurneuzen"

"Professor! It's not over yet! What's the time? Ring-a-dingding!"

Yes, I actually chose the Dutch dialogue, because the original English dialogue was not as fun.

I don't think it's healthy to cram several books by Kasai Kiyoshi (= influential critic of detective fiction) in just one weekend. Sure, his literary history of Japanese detective fiction takes an interesting angle if we compare it to other literary historians like Rzepka and Silver, and Kasai's more Formalist reading of closed circle classics like The Siamese Twin Mystery and And Then There Were None is very interesting, but it really makes your head hurt if you cram it all in a few days. Unfortunately, I don't really have a choice as I have to hand in a paper next week... Which is just the first of a series of deadlines I really have to meet. Time. I need it.

Lately, I haven't had time to actually read novels anymore, so I did the next best thing: listen to audio dramatizations of novels. 'Cause listening to dramas is considerably shorter than reading the original novels. And I can listen to them during that Twilight time of the day when you're too tired to read but too active to sleep.

Of course, there is material that is good for adaption and material that is not. For example, mechanical locked rooms can be done as audio dramas, but these often require unnatural dialogue in order to provide the listener the exposition needed to fully understand a certain structure / locale / architecture, which in a novel can be 'hidden' in regular explanatory lines. On the other hand, stories that lean heavily on pure logic, on pure reasoning seem more suitable, as these stories usually develop through through repeated questioning and answering, through pure dialogue. Which is naturally the base of any audio drama.

So Arisugawa Alice's Swiss-dokei no Nazo ("The Swiss Watch Mystery") seems like a logical choice for an audio drama adaption (by Momogre (Momo and Grapes Company)). Swiss-dokei no Nazo belongs to Arisugawa's writer Alice series, where criminologist Himura Hideo and detective writer Arisugawa Alice combine their awesome powers to fight crime. And like the title suggests, the story's very much like Ellery Queen's early novels: a murder mystery that revolves around the presence / absence of a certain object, which forms the basis of all of the deductions of our detective. Here, our star is of course the titular wristwatch. Early on in the investigation, Himura deduces that the glass shards found on the crime scene came from the murder victim's wristwatch. Which has disappeared from the crime scene. Did the murderer take the watch away and why? The story at the same time takes a look at the memories of a younger Alice, as the victim and the suspects turn out to be old classmates of him and the memories they share provide for some funny moments.

As a Queen-like story, Swiss-dokei no Nazo is pretty good. The fixation on objects (or fetish, as critic Kasai even calls it) is used by Arisugawa just as interesting as the old master used to do and the denouement in particular is an impressive tour-de-force of pure reasoning simply based on the (absence of a single) object. Like done so expertly in Queen's The Tragedy of Z, the denouement here is based on an all-covering process of elimination, with Himura examining every single possible reason for taking a watch away from the crime scene until he arrives at the murderer. The setting of a small group of friends and the importance of a broken clock of course strongly suggest some relation with Queen's own short story The Glass Domed Clock.

I'll blame my own Japanese proficiency here, but the denouement was a bit confusing though. Like I said, Swiss-dokei no Nazo strongly invokes the early Queen spirit, and any reader of Queen knows that things can get complicated when we get down to the explanation. Yes, it's all logical and it all fits and stuff, but hearing multi-layered deductions based on a multitude of factos in fast-paced dialogue (in a foreign language!), took quite quite a toll on pretty much of all my mental faculties. I have the feeling that the deduction is not completely flawless like Himura (and Arisugawa) posed it to be.... but I'll read the novel one day to make sure.

The voice-acting was pretty good too. I had never heard any of Momogre's audio dramas, but they had an impeckable actor for Alice. As I have never read the original, I am not sure how much of the 300+ pages of the original story made it into the audio drama, but the drama was running at a good pace and it at least never felt like anything was cut from the story. I did had the feeling that a lot of the humor that exists between Himura and Alice (with Himura usually looking down at Alice) had disappeared. They should bicker a bit more.

Anyway, this audio drama sure has made me interested in Momogre's adaption of 46 Banme no Misshitsu, as I have actually read that one.

Original Japanese title(s): モモグレ (原作:有栖川有栖) 『スイス時計の謎』


  1. Hahaha, You actually listened to it before I did. Even though it is here, on my harddisk.

    It is nice to see a drama CD review by someone who is interested in the story it was based on, instead of only interested in the voice actors for once.

    Looking forward to your review of 46 banme no misshitsu if you ever happen to post it :)

  2. To be honest, with all the BL releases on Momogre's site, I was a bit worried whther they wouldn't add some extra spice to the story ^_~' But luckily none of that and I'm definitely going to review 46 Banme no Misshitsu in the near future. And maybe ABC Satsujin Jiken too :P

  3. Haha, I was worried about exactly the same thing. Even the art matches. It scored incredibly high on the BL radar. Some quick research showed that wasn't the case though, otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it to you ;)