『The Real Folk Blues』
I look at tomorrow with one eye, while keeping my other eye on yesterday
"The Real Folk Blues"
With the end of the year nearing, I am at one hand tempted to try to come up with a best-of-list, because looking at the past is some kind of ritual that needs to be done around this time. And as I have a) actually read a reasonable amount of books this year and b) I can actually rely on my blog instead of on my memory, it would be possible too! On the other hand, I don't really like best-of-list all too much.
Galileo series (the second volume in the series actually), but I had knew the five stories collected here, as they were featured in the TV drama based on Galileo. So yeah, there was no real urgency in reading stories I knew already anyway. Besides that, most of the stories collected here weren't that interesting anyway. In fact, I only choose this book because I could finish it quickly. Ah, I hope my books arrive here soon.
While the Galileo novels (Yougisha X no Kenshin, Seijo no Kyuusai, Manatsu no Houteishiki) are all quite good, the Galileo short story collection all suffer from the problem that they are insolvable for us mere mortal readers. Most of the Galileo short stories follow the same formula: cop Kusanagi handles a case that has a supernatural tone to it. A predicted murder. Poltergeists. Will-o'-the-Wisps. Those kind of things. Kusanagi asks his scientist friend Yukawa for assistance, who then comes up with a complex scientific explanation for the situation. While the 'supernatural-phenomena-turns-out-to-be-perfectly-natural-phenoma' is certainly fun, Higashino's stories end up with roughly two problems. One is of course that unless you happen to know something about the scientific theme of the week, you are screwed. The second problem is that Higashino is not as fair as he should be and that he keeps pulling information from nowhere during the explanation. Thus we have an unfairly hinted story that relies on specialist information too.
The first story in the collection, Yumemiru ("Dream"), sorta avoids this by coming up with a totally fuzzy, way too vague solution to the problem of a man who apparently has foreseeing dreams. Ever since elementary school, he had dreams about a girl called Morisaki Reimi and he has always said he would marry her. Fast-foward 20 years or so, and we have this man arrested for breaking and entering the house where high-school student Morisaki Reimi lives. How could the man have dreamt about this girl, even before she was born? Her name is very rare and all evidence shows that this man has really been talking and dreaming about her ever since he was a boy. The solution Yukawa provides however is certainly not satisfactory.
Mieru ("See") is better luckily A woman is found strangled in her house, but she was also seen at a totally different place, at the time of her murder, by her lover. Was that her ghost who said goodbye to him? Of course not, and the solution to the whole story is pretty good, but it is the story structure and page length that kinda kills the story. The story is just too short to really work out the ghost-angle, and the pacing is a bit too fast too really convey a feeling of space and bewilderment that is needed for this kind of story.
Sawagu ("Racket") is the definately the weakest story of the five. Kusanagi is asked by a friend of his sister's to locate her husband, who hasn't come back in five days. She suspects that something has happened at the house of an old lady he used to visit. The woman has died recently and her nephew, his wife and two friends of them have moved in the house, but they are acting very strange. Especially the fact that they all leave the house at eight at night, only to come back a bit later is unnatural. Kusanagi and the friend break into the house after eight to see whether her husband is being held there, but find nothing. Nothing? Well, they did discover that every night a poltergeist starts to make a racket in the house and that is the reason why the four always leave the house at eight... Yukawa comes up with a solution to explain the poltergeist phenomena which is so absolutely unfair and impossible that it frustrated me intensely when I read it, even though I already the solution from the TV drama!
Shimeru ("Strangle") is the best, though that is not saying much, it seems. A man is found dead in his hotel room, with severe strangling marks on his neck. The main suspect is his wife, as they entered a life insurance program only recently. What is making this strange though, is that the daughter says she saw a will-o'-the-wisp fly around her father some days ago. Was this a sign of his death? This time, the story is fairly hinted, though the main trick to the whole problem is pretty much impossible to deduce based on that single hint. It's a thing that kinda makes sense in hindsight, but no way a reader is going to deduce this beforehand.
Shiru ("Know") is another fairly decent story: a woman commits suicide in the apartment in the building across of her lover's apartment, with her lover and his wife being actual witness to that. The strange thing is that in the apartment next to witnesses' apartment, a sickly girl claims that she had seen the woman commit suicide two days earlier (but she admits she did see her being alive and well the day after). Was this a foreseeing dream by an hallucinating girl? Yukawa's solution to this supernatural phenomena is decent, but a bigger problem lies in another problem Yukawa uncovers at the same time. This is once again a solution that relies too much in specialist information that no normal reader is going to have. Which really hurts this story, because the main plot is actually quite decent that could have been worked to something much better.
So no, I am not really positive about this selection of stories. Having now read all the Gallileo short stories and another short story collection by Higashino, I think short stories are just not his forte. On the other hand, a lot of his novels feature tricks and plots that actually don't need a full-length novel to work properly, I think (they read very comfortably though). Higashino really should try writing novelettes.
And still waiting for books to arrive.
Original Japanese title(s): 東野圭吾 『予知夢』: 「夢想る （ゆめみる）」 / 「霊視る （みえる）」 / 「騒霊ぐ （さわぐ）」 / 「絞殺る （しめる）」 / 「予知る （しる）」