"All the world's a stage"
"As you like it"
No, I don't have an Ayatsuji Yukito quotum for this month. Really. Next week the new Gyakuten Saiban / Ace Attorney will be released, so expect something on that when I've finished that, but before that, I promise I'll post some non-Ayatsuji related reviews. Heck, They'll even be about non-Japanese novels! One of them, about poisoned chocolates...
But first, to show it's over with Ayatsuji for this month, we'll kill him off, in Ayatsuji Yukito Satsujin Jiken - Arujitachi no Yakata ("The Ayatsuji Yukito Murder Case - The House of the Owners"). Nakamura Seiji is a famous architect, who always placed secret hallways and hidden doors in his creations. For some reason, his creations also seem to attract death, as his houses have been the setting for many murder cases. One day, the owners of Nakamura's Decagon House, the Labyrinth House, the Clock House and the Black Cat House, who are all referred to by their house, gather in the Mirage House. It is said that a stack of gold is hidden somewhere in the mansion, probably in one of secret rooms Nakamura designed, and the four men hope to find the treasure by solving a mysterious code. Black Cat House however manages to solve the code before the other three do, and he sneaks into the secret treasure room alone. The other people manage to solve the code themselves not long afterwards, but when they open the secret room, they find the murdered Black Cat House inside!
Such goes a mystery play Mystery Night organized together with famous writer Ayatsuji Yukito (writer of the series about Nakamura Seiji's houses). Atsumi Reika, the editor in charge of Ayatsuji Yukito, is attending the play, but it turns out that the actor playing Black Cat House was really murdered during the performance. The only people who could have commited the murder were the actors on stage and the people in the wings of the stage, during the times the lights were out for scene changes. Morishita, the stage director, hopes that Ayatsuji Yukito will solve the case, as he's a famous detective writer, but then Ayatsuji himself is found as a corpse!
Well, of course Ayatsuji Yukito isn't really dead (or I have been mailing with a dead man this week). A bit confusing, but The Ayatsuji Yukito Murder Case - The House of the Owners is the novelization of a stage play, about a murder commited during a stage play. And it wasn't a normal stage play either. For it was organized by Mystery Night, a murder play group which has been around for 26 years. As far as I know, the basic set-up is the same every time: a murder play is performed in front of the public, after which the public have a chance to question the suspects. At the end of the night, guests hand in sheets with their deductions / who they think the murderer is. Gather enough points and your name will be remembered as a great detective forever (or something like that). This particular 'crossover' was held in the summer of 2012, as it was the 25th anniversary since their debut for both Ayatsuji Yukito and Mystery Night,
The book contains a novelization of the murder play, written by Amane Ryou, as well as a report on how the play went and some interviews with the actors and Ayatsuji Yukito himself. For this review, I'll only look at the novelization of the play. The rest is probably quite interesting if you attended the play yourself, but a report on how the project was organized just isn't that captivating if you weren't there. I have to note that the novelization is very short, with the novelization about as long as the rest of the book (300 pages in total).
The setting of an actual murder happening during a murder play isn't new, of course. I remember an early Kindachi Shounen no Jikenbo story for example, as well as a very recent Gyakuten Saiban / Ace Attorney stage play. And if we go further and go to murders committed during filming of movies / TV shows and such, we could probably fill a very interesting post. But not this time. But on topic: the novelization of Ayatsuji Yukito Satsujin Jiken is surprisingly fun, but it does show to an extent that sometimes, tricks just seem better suited for certain media over others.
The whole story about how the actor of Black Cat House was murdered in a locked room on stage, and the consequent Ayatsuji Yukito murder is definitely fun to read. The setting, a murder play in the theater, is used to its fullest and the original writers obviously wrote this keeping in mind the public would walk around the set looking for clues The main trick, while not particularly original, does really fit the stage. As such, this is quite a good example of a fair play mystery play.
But on the other hand, some might think the novelization of the stage play is less succesful, because you can't see it performed in front of your eyes or walk around the set. While I didn't had any problems with the main trick, I have seen several reviews of the book by people who said they had troubles visualizing the trick, which might betray its origins as a stage play. The novelization by price-winning Amane Ryou is also a bit... bland, I have to admit. I don't how much he added to the original stage play (probably mostly Reika as the reader-proxy), but while adequate, the novelization does not impress.
For fans of Ayatsuji Yukitos novels, there's a lot to be found here: the play-within-the-play is presented as a side-story of Ayatsuji's Yakata series, complete with a Nakamura Seiji mansion. Heck, the title Mirage House was actually one of the proposed titles of Ningyoukan no Satsujin. But the most surprising part is of course Ayatsuji's own demise in the story. As he notes himself, one could consider it retribution for having killed so many people in his books. It's a bit surreal to see him in this role, but funny.
But I admit that this novelization is a hard sale for people who don't particularly like Ayatsuji Yukito. The story works better as a stage play than a novel, I admit, and the allure of this project is mostly derived from having Ayatsuji killed... so if you're nto a big fan of him, you probably won't enjoy this book. The novelization is also very short, and the rest of the book is only interesting if you want to read some interviews and a field report on how the original stage play went.
Original Japanese title(s): 綾辻行人（編集）、天祢涼（ノベライズ） 『綾辻行人殺人事件 主たちの館』