森へとri ra ra ra
フラリ フラリ 駆け抜ける
「Marionette Fantasia」 (Garnet Crow)
To the forest li la la la
Knock on the door
Praying I won't hear
The fluttering wind, its sad voice
I keep on running
"Marionette Fantasia" (Garnet Crow)
The return of Short Shorts! Most people probably don't remember this corner, but it's mostly a collection of several, unrelated items. Sometimes I just have trouble writing a full-length review of something: to prevent these reviews from staying in limbo, I just combine multiple of these items in one Short Shorts post. Usually fairly incoherent posts, though today's Short Short is surprisingly following a popular theme: the impossible crime in short story format.
John Dickson Carr's famous short story The House in Goblin Wood and because in Japan you can just walk in a bookstore and get a new copy, I did just that. Over a year ago. The collection Youma no Mori no Ie (The House in Goblin Wood) has confusingly the English subtitle The Third Bullet and Other Stories and to make the chaos complete, this collection is not the same as The Third Bullet and Other Stories released outside Japan. Anyway, The House in Goblin Wood deals with the disappearance of Vicky Adams from an observed house, one of the witnesses being Sir Henry Merrivale. Vicky had done the same disappearing act when she was a child and when she returned she said she had been with the fairies. Has adult Vicky gone to the fairies again? The House in Goblin Wood is definitely a masterpiece: short, but expertly designed. It's completely solvable (I did, actually), but the way the story develops within the small amount of pages, the spooky disappearance and the whole truth at the end are presented, fantastic!
This collection also has The Incautious Burglar (Guest in the House), The Locked Room, The Clue of the Red Wig and The Third Bullet, but none of them really impressed to be honest. The Third Bullet in particular felt too long, even though the solution seemed so obvious. The House in Goblin Wood shows that sometimes shorter = better. The Clue of the Red Wig has a Queenish murder scene: a woman dressed just in her underwear with a wig next to her is found in a little private garden/park. The pay-off is not particularly interesting in the end, but not bad (though I am quite sure I'll forget about this story in just a few months).
Edward D. Hoch had mastered. I had already said in my review of the third collection of the Dr. Sam Hawthorne series that I probably wouldn't do full reviews anymore (see the review for more details), which makes it ideal material for this short short. Like a lot of Tokyo Sogen's publications, this volume has an English subtitle, which is Diagnosis: Impossible 4 - More and More Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne and that's the best way to describe it: yes, it's 'just' more impossible problems for the New England town doctor Sam to solve, and yes, the stories are still mostly the same in terms of structure, but heck, they are fun! There is a bit of a running storyline, with Sam hiring a new nurse and all, but it's still about all the mysterious murders that make Northmont one of the scariest places to live.
The Problem of the Haunted Tepee should be mentioned, as it's a crossover story with Hoch's Old West mystery series Ben Snow. An elderly Snow wants Sam to solve the mystery behind a haunted tepee, of which Snow himself had seen its deadly powers. This volume also contains the short story Frontier Street as a bonus story, which too is part of the Ben Snow series. The best story of the volume is The Problem of the Leather Man, where Sam has a long walk with the titular 'leather man' to the next town. They both take lodgings there, but the next morning the man is gone, and everybody, from the people at the lodgings to the people Sam had seen during the walk, say that Sam had been alone. Is the good doctor going crazy? This story takes a plot device I've seen quite often lately (probably just a coincidence), but constructs it in a reverse way, which makes it feel quite fresh. Sam has always been closely related to the crimes he solves as witness, but this time there's not even a crime and it's his own sanity that is being questioned. Quite different from the other stories in terms of development and type of story, something that is quite welcome once in a while.
And that wraps up this Short Short! Again, this corner is mostly reserved for materials I have trouble writing a full post on, so it's fairly irregular. For all I know, it might take once again a year and a half for a new Short Short to appear.
Original title(s): John Dickson Carr 『妖魔の森に家』: 'The House in Goblin Wood' 「妖魔の森の家」 / 'The Incautious Burglar' (Guest in the House) 「軽率だった夜盗」 / 'The Locked Room' 「ある密室」 / 'The Clue of the Red Wig' 「赤いカツラの手がかり」 / 'The Third Bullet' 「第三の銃弾」
Edward D. Hoch 『サム・ホーソーンの事件簿』IV: 'The Problem of the Black Roadster' 「黒いロードスターの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Two Birthmarks' 「二つの母斑の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Dying Patient' 「重体患者の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Protected Farmhouse' 「要塞と化した農家の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Haunted Tepee' 「呪われたティーピーの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Blue Bicycle' 「青い自転車の謎」 / 'The Problem of the County Church' 「田舎教会の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Grange Hall' 「グレンジ・ホールの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Vanishing Salaryman' 「消えたセールスマンの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Leather Man' 「革服の男の謎」 / 'The Phantom Parlor' 「幻の談話室の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Poisoned Pool' 「毒入りプールの謎」 / 'Frontier Street' 「フロンティア・ストリート」