Crime, it's the way I fly to you (Snake Eater)
"Snake Eater" (Cynthia Harrel)
Yes, yes, I know, I'm behind with my Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files R") reviews... Today's volume was released back in November... Oh, and now for something completely different, but apparently I'm already over 700 posts here on the blog.
First thing that I noticed: while Hajime is indeed the grandson of Kindaichi Kousuke, and a brilliant young detective himself, who has shown countless of times throughout the series that he's great at solving mysteries, you do have to wonder what Inspector Kenmochi was thinking when he decided to take two high school students along on his mission to find, and capture, a desperate murderer on the run in a remote village. Usually Hajime and Miyuki get involved with murder cases by accident, so there's little you can do about that, but I think there might be some problems about a high-ranking police detective taking minors along on a dangerous task.
Though I have to say that in general, The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is actually a very weak story. It is eleven chapters long, which is the norm for long stories in this series, but it feels barely any denser in terms of actual content than a short story. The obi of this volume says "One Of The Most Complex Cases Of This Series, Completed!" about this story, but The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is in fact probably one of the simplest stories of the series. The solution to the problem of the corpse in the container is incredibly obvious from the start. It is very likely the first thing that pops in mind once you're presented with the whole setting, and I kept hoping it was just a red herring, but alas, it turned out the simple, least original solution was indeed the correct one. This on its own doesn't mean disaster though, as a good mystery writer can, with effort, weave different ideas and plots together to make a whole stronger than its parts, but I think series writer Amagi was on an off-day, because the other elements of the mystery plot proper were as poorly inspired as the main trick. From the way the murderer gives themselves away, to the often-seen 'psychological trap' Hajime uses to prove who the murderer is: the ideas themselves are poor, and it all feels like disjointed ideas, rather than a whole story.
There is for example a whole back story surrounding the family of the owner of the brewery, which is supposed to spring all kinds of surprises on the reader, but it fails miserably at that task as once again, the most obvious, the simplest answer to any question always turns out to be the correct one. There's nothing tricky about this plot, nor anything that feels like it was constructed to entertain the reader.
And what I lament the most is perhaps how the setting goes to waste. Save for film sets, 'normal' work places are not very commonly used as a setting in this series actually, at least not for the longer stories (they do feature more ofen in the short stories). While The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is not the first long story to feature such a location, it is still rare enough for me to notice it, as usually Hajime and Miyuki find themselves in more unique (and often isolated) locales. This type of setting is much more in Detective Conan, as The Sleeping Kogorou is hired by clients from various backgrounds. The White Snake Brewery Murder Case can be fairy informative about how sake is brewed (if you're a total amateur like me), which is always one of the things I like about these kinds of specialist settings, but to have it used on a bland mystery plot....
Of all the stories ever since the series returned with Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R started in 2014, The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is probably the worst, as the mystery plot is by far the least inspired. Everything is too obvious, even it is not even entertaining in its obviousness, as the presentation of the plot and the way the clues are presented are rather crude (c.f. Gyakuten Kuukou, a book written for children and very simple, yet plotted and structured in a very good manner). I can only hope volume 12, to be released in April, will be return to form for this series.
Original Japanese title(s): 天樹征丸（原）、さとうふみや（画） 『金田一少年の事件簿Ｒ』第１０＆１１巻