Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Journey for Truth

"The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic."
"The Blue Cross"

It's actually amazing how many one-shot adaptations they make of mystery novels in Japan. It's almost like every other weekend there's a two-hour special based on a best-selling novel. You hardly see that outside of Japan, I think, where they usually try to go for a film adaptation. There's the occassional Christie TV special or mini-series adaptation, but that's at best once in a couple of years.

The discovery of a cut-off right arm at Ookawa Park, Tokyo, is the start of a horrible serial murder case. A commuter ticket found together with the arm identifies the victim as Furukawa Mariko, a young, female bank employee who went missing some time ago. But a TV station gets a call by someone using a voice scambler, telling them that the arm discovered in the park is not that of Mariko, but that he'll leave Mariko's arm elsewhere for them to find. The murderer keeps on killing more and more women, plunging the city in fear and he even dares to call the family of the victims to make fun of them. The police investigation have little results, which of course also stirs up social unrest, which is fuled more by the relentless coverage of the case by the media. Freelance writer Maehata Shigeko and teenager Tsukuda Shinichi, who discovered the first arm, start to investigate the case too for a series of articles on the murders, but Shigeko finds it harder and harder to proceed as she sees up close how the family of the victims have to cope with the horrible fate of their loved ones. But Shigeko, the media, the family of the victims and of course the police keep looking for the sadistic killer in the 2016 TV drama Miyabe Miyuki Suspense - Mohouhan ("Miyabe Miyuki Suspense - The Copy Cat Crime").

Miyabe Miyuki is one of the best-known female writers in Japan, specializing in genres like crime and fantasy. I myself haven't read that many of her works (Kasha and R.P.G., off the top of my head), but she's also one of the Japanese writers who is actually fairly well represented in English language translations. Mohouhan ("The Copy Cat Crime") is one of her best-known books, and also one of her longest (or actually, I think it is her longest story). The original seralization, which started in 1995, took about four years, and the currently available pocket paperback version consists of no less than five sizeable volumes. An English translation of the book is available on e-book (also split up in multiple volumes), with the title Puppet Master.


Mohouhan had been adapted for the silver screen in 2002, but Miyabe Miyuki Suspense - Mohouhan was the first time it had been adapted for TV. The drama consists of two, two-hour parts, and was broadcast on September 21-22, 2016. The 2002 film apparently has quite some changes compared to the plot of the original novel, assumably partly because of the runtime, but the 2016 TV drama version has been praised as a very faithful adaptation of the book. Four hours to adapt one book is actually a lot, but considering the size of the original work, I guess this was the best way to do it.

Mohouhan is not a puzzle plot mystery, but a pure crime thriller. In the first part of the drama, the narrative mainly jumps between Shigeko's POV, that of the police investigation, and the POV of the grandfather of Mariko. It is in this part where we see the true horrors of the crime, as the people left behind try to make sense of everything that has happened. Shigeko, as a freelance writer. tries to get close to the families of the victims in the hopes of getting a scoop, but writing about a mysterious serial murderer gets a lot more personal when you actually see the family of the victims break under all the pressure. The narrative jumps cleverly among all the involved parties, showing the crimes from multiple angles. The investigation in this first part of the drama features very little progress though, focusing more on the impact of the crimes. The big reveals and shocks are only revealed in the last thirty minutes or so. The second part of the drama in turn shows the denouement of the story from the POV of both Shigeko and.... the murderer. The murderer cleverly makes use of the media to conjure up a fake story about the murders, which the media, and the people in the country, love to believe. By putting different parties involved with the crimes (family of victims, freelance writer Shigeko, etc.) against each other, the mastermind manages to cause more chaos in the perception of the crimes. But for what cause?


The story is very much rooted in the foundations of shakai-ha (social school of crime fiction). The narrative of Mohouhan shows the interaction between all the parties involved with a horrible serial murder: the (family of the) victim, the murderer, the police, the media writing about the case and the general public. The story especially gives a harsh, but realistic look at the power of the media (in Japan). Do they side with the victims? With the police? Can the media write a narrative where someone else is the victim? Can the narrative in the media actually create new guilty parties? Questions like these are of course nowadays more relevant than ever, with internet and SNS giving everyone a stage to present and spread a narrative to the general public. The TV drama was set in the present day, even though the book was written twenty years ago, but the use of SNS and internet throughout the drama really didn't hurt the story, but only enhanced the role of the media. Another mystery story I discussed here where media played a role is Shirayuki Hime Satsujin Jiken, and to a lesser extent, I guess Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper also had elements of that.


I didn't really like the murderer in this story though. It's a rare thing for me to be talking about motives on this blog (motives are usually not that big an issue in puzzle plot mysteries), but I had some trouble following the train of thought of the murderer. Like the title of the English publication suggests, there's a puppet master, a sadistic, manipulating psychopath, walking around and that can be fun: fiction like Death Note and Aku no Kyouten work because of that, but I can't help but think that the murderer of Mohouhan did a lot that would eventually always lead to their own destruction. And sometimes that is the plan, but it doesn't seem likely in this case. It appears a more hands-off approach to managing would've been better for this murderer.

Overall though, Miyabe Miyuki Suspense - Mohouhan was an enjoyable crime thriller yarn. It's quite long, four hours for just one story, but I never felt like it was dragging or boring.The narrative keeps a good sense of pacing throughout and the characters are interesting enough to make you want to see where they'll end up.

Original Japanese title(s): 宮部みゆき(原) 『 宮部みゆきサスペンス 模倣犯』

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Candidate for Crime

この大空に翼を広げ
飛んで行きたいよ
悲しみのない自由な空へ
翼はためかせ行きたい
「翼をください」(赤い鳥)

I want to spread out my wings
And soar through the wide sky
Towards a free sky, where there is no sadness
That's where I want to go flapping my wings
"Give Me Wings" (Akai Tori)

I try to point out nice covers when I come across them, but let me also point out that the cover of today's book is really one of the laziest efforts I've seen, as it's nothing more than a simple collage of existing character artwork slapped together. It is so devoid of any inspiration, it actually looks almost identical to the previous book in the series (which was also a lazy copypasta). As they have an illustrator doing original art for the inside of the book, you'd hope they'd let them design the cover too, though I guess they'd prefer recognizable official artwork from the main series...

Young attorney Odoroki Housuke had a nice holiday planned: first he'd visit an old friend in the city of Uminobe, and then step on a plane at Uminobe Airport. During the baggage checkpoint, Odoroki notices something lying on the ground. As he picks it up, the man before him suddenly cries out and staggers back, falling on top of Odoroki. As people start to gather around them, Odoroki realizes the man is bleeding. It doesn't take long for everyone to notice that the man is in fact dead, and that the object Odoroki picked up from the floor --and is still holding in his hands-- is in fact an ice pick that fits rather well with the wound on the victim. Odoroki is immediately arrested as the murder suspect. Naruhodou, Odoroki's boss at the Naruhodou Anything Agency, is determined to prove the innocence of his subordinate in the courtroom, but the fight won't be easy: the victim was one Uranashi Masamichi, a popular and influential local politician, so there is a certain pressure to wrap up the case swiftly and Naruhodou's opponent in the court is prosecutor Garyuu, a former rockstar who is a lot sharper than you might expect. Can Naruhodou save Odoroki and find out who the true killer is in Takase Mie's Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten Kuukou ("Turnabout Trial - Turnabout Airport", 2017)?

2016's Gyakuten Idol was the first original full-length novel based on the Gyakuten Saiban/Ace Attorney franchise, a long-running courtroom mystery videogame series (and if you have been reading this blog for a while now, you will have noticed that I'm quite a big fan of the series, and that I review not only the games, but also the books, the musicals, the film, the manga, the stageplays etc.). Gyakuten Idol was released in Kadokawa's Tsubasa Bunko label, a line specifically aimed at children. At first, I had no high expectations of the novel, but author Takase Mie (who had a lot of experience writing novels based on game franchices like Fire Emblem and Kirby) managed to surprise me very pleasantly. Yes, the language used in the novel was indeed simple, and yes, the novel was short, and yes, on the whole the plot was not particularly complex, but it was fun! The story and the clues were plotted very well and you could clearly see Takase had experience in writing good mystery novels, as well as for children. Heck, I have read many mystery novels meant for an older audience that weren't even half as tightly plotted as Gyakuten Idol. The book did well enough, it appears, as we now have a sequel, once again written by Takase Mie and featuring original character designs and illustrations by Kikuyarou, who also does some official artwork for the Japanese e-zine for the Ace Attorney series.

And yes, with Gyakuten Kuukou Takase once again delivers a mystery novel that is clearly written for children, but is still enjoyable for adults as it is very well plotted mystery novel. The main problem is one of an impossible kind: while the victim was stabbed with a poisoned weapon, Odoroki himself insists nobody besides himself was in the vicinity of the victim at the time he cried out. The murder happened at an airport, and all the other potential suspects had already passed the security checkpoint, so they couldn't even have carried a weapon on their bodies. The whole premise sounds like it could've come from an early Queen novel, with a murder that happens in an open, public location and people being searched for potential murder weapons. Now I think about it, Gyakuten Idol had some Queenian qualities too, with once again a murder happening in front of an audience, and location maps and character movement being part of the plot (which is the same for this novel). The way the real murderer managed to get rid of the murder weapon is actually quite neat in the sense that is an original method, and that it is very neatly clued throughout the story. Again, it's not a difficult problem, and I wouldn't be surprised if quite some readers catch on what happened once the clue appears, but nonetheless, the way all the clues are scattered across the narrative effectively is a skill many authors actually have trouble with.

As per series tradition, most of the revelations are made in the courtroom, with Naruhodou pointing out contradictions in the testimonies of all the witnesses, thus slowly revealing the truth. Naruhodou (and the reader) seldom know in advance what the witnesses will testify about, so it's always a surprise to them, which leads to dynamic story developments. Because Gyakuten Kuukou is a novel, and not a game, the distinct flow of a trial from the games is slightly altered, but it works in the context of this format (non-interactive novel), and it still feels exactly like a true Ace Attorney story. But in general, it's still the same set-up as in the games: whereas a lot of mystery novels try to solve everything at the end, this series has always been about solving a lot of smaller mysteries/contradictions after another, which eventually reveal the whole picture, similar to Columbo.

While this book is definitely accessible for those who don't know the game series, it's of course mainly aimed at fans who are already familiar with the series. And there's a lot for them to find in this novel too. The story definitely feels like it could've appeared in the games, including its cast of original characters. But there's also a lot of interesting situations to be found in this novel for those are very familiar with Ace Attorney lore. For example, funnily enough Odoroki (Apollo Justice in the English localization) was the only employee of the Naruhodou Anything Agency who had never been a defendant in a case before, so this was an interesting first (though it's a shame he didn't get to defend himself in court). Prosecutor Garyuu (Klavier Gavin in the localized version) is also a bit of a forgotten character lately, so seeing him in the courtroom again, against Naruhodou no less, is something longtime fans will probably find interesting. This novel series in general is very good at recreating the atmosphere of the games actually. This is partly because of the very simple prose, but the way the characters are written, and some of the ideas show that Takase knows her source material. For those interested, the book is set a bit before the events of Gyakuten Saiban 6.

Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten Kuukou was thus once again a more than solid mystery novel, that should also satisfy the fans of the franchise. In my review of Gyakuten Idol, I concluded my text by saying I hoped they would turn this into a series. And as we can see now, the results were great, so I definitely hope they'll bring out more of these in the future. A new volume every six, seven months would be great!

Original Japanese title(s): 高瀬美恵 『逆転裁判 逆転空港』

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Double Sin

邪魔はさせない  わが道行くぜ
戦え! 戦え!戦え! 戦え!
戦え! オタキング
「戦え! オタキング」(辻谷耕史)

I won't let anyone stop me! I'll go my own way!
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Fight! Otaking!
"Fight! Otaking!" (Tsujitani Kouji)

I have read some books from South Korea and China in the past, but I'm sure this is the first time I ever read a book from Taiwan.

Hú Jié's Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng ("I Am The Great King of Manga", 2013) starts with the twelfth chapter in the novel, which details the discovery of the liveless body of the father of the Fāng family. Mother had just come home after a week of absence when she discovered her husband's body together with the student neighbor. The only other person inside the house was the twelve year old son, who had been locked inside his own room from the outside. The story then jumps back in time, back to the first chapter, to the start of two distinct storylines. In the uneven chapters, we follow Little Jiàn, son of the Fāng family, who aims to become the Great King of Manga (comics) to earn the respect of his fellow classmates. In the even chapters, we follow father Zhihóng, who has a tough time at work, but tries to give his son the one thing that pleases him: manga. But as the story continues, we slowly work towards an inevitable fact: death.

The Soji Shimada Mystery Award is a Taiwanese literary award which started in 2008 and was obviously set-up with the help of Shimada Souji. Several publishers around the world work together for this award, and the winning works are translated and published in several countries, including Japan, China, Taiwan and even Italy. Hú Jié won the third award in 2013 with Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng, his debut novel. At the moment, this remains his only published full-length novel, as he has only published short stories since. I read the Japanese translation of his debut novel, titled Boku wa Manga Daiou, by the way, which was published in 2016. The cover shown in this review is also from the Japanese version.

To be completely honest, as a mystery novel, Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng is a bit disappointing. The problem is that the whole novel basically revolves around one trick, one mystery gimmick, but from the start it's rather obvious what Hú Jié is trying to do. By the time the truth is revealed, you're not surprised or shocked or anything. It's something most readers will have seen coming ages ago. The actual execution also leaves room open to questions. It's not quite science-fiction, but it does seem more than a bit unbelievable the way it was done here. In general, a simple mystery plot isn't bad on its own (a solvable mystery is always better than an unsolvable mystery), but there needs to be something more to attract the reader. The main focus here falls a bit flat, being both obvious and odd in execution. The murder of the father has something like an element of an impossible crime to it too, but that part is even less surprising. I think a better balance between the two parts would've resulted in a better novel overall.

The book does portray a very interesting look on the world of manga (Japanese comics) in Taiwan in the 70s. Manga, as a product of Japanese popular culture, has had a weird history in both South Korea and Taiwan in the past, being former colonies of Japan. Series were often heavily localized as to erase any signs of "Japaneseness" from them, with changed names and settings, but they were popular nonetheless. Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng features a lot of talk by Little Jiàn and his classmates on the manga that were popular at the time, like Mazinger Z, but also on the various pirated publications of these series in Taiwan. You'll find out quite some interesting things about the history of these classic manga in Taiwan as you read this book. The way manga are used in the mystery plot is also kinda neat, though as I said, this was not enough to really make the mystery plot impressive.

The way the book focuses on both a young and adult protagonist through its two storylines, one in a 'child' society, one in an 'adult' society kinda reminded me of the family-centred stories of Higashino Keigo. Given Higashino's popularity worldwide, I wouldn't be surprised if he had served as some sort of inspiration for this novel too. I think that people interested in reading the human drama and looking at 'other' societies so typical of Higashino's work will appreciate Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng.

Wǒ Shi Mànhuà Dàwáng was quite different from what I had expected (or hoped) it to be, and that resulted in a somewhat disappointing experience. I think that going in different expectations will probably result in a different, more positive reading. The book offers an interesting, almost nostalgic look on a child's life in Taiwan some decades ago, but as a mystery novel, it is lacking.

Original Chinese title(s):  胡杰 『我是漫畫大王』. Japanese version: 胡傑 『ぼくは漫画大王』

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hotel Dusk

「いや、人は疑うべきだよ。多くの人は誤解しているけれど、人を疑うことは、つまりその人間を知ろうとする行為なんだ」
『Liar Game』

"No, you should be doubtful of people. Most people get this wrong, but to have doubts about someone, means you're trying to get to know that person."
"Liar Game"

Despite its popularity, I have to admit I never played Mafia.

Following the events in the first novel of the Danganronpa Kirigiri series, Kirigiri and Yui continue their hunt for the Crime Victim Salvation Committee, a secret organization that provides revenge murder plans and the means to commit them to crime victims. They discover that the Committee considers this all to be a game: they provide the murderer with means, but they also invite a detective to the crime scene. The whole confrontation between murderer and detective is a form of entertainment for the Committee's sponsors: a battle of wits for survival. If the murderer wins, they get their revenge and are offered a new life, if the detective wins, the murderer will have a rather large debt to pay back to the Committee.

A new lead brings Kirigiri and Yui to Norman's Hotel, which was abandoned after a guest went on a killing spree. Inside the decrepit hotel, the two young detectives find out that more people have been lured to the hotel with the promise of a special auction. All ten people, including Kirigiri and Yui, are however trapped inside the hotel, and are forced to participate in a variant of the well-known Mafia/Werewolves game. Each participant is given money and the instructions to be inside their room each night when the auto-lock switches on. However, each night, once the auto-lock is activated, the Murderer will start with their rounds, holding a master key. The only person who can stop the Murderer is the Detective. Each evening, "Detective Rights" are auctioned. The winner is given the title Detective and immunity that round (can't be killed by the Murderer), and also receives a master key, with which they can free the others from their rooms. The first night, efforts are made to save everybody from their rooms as quickly as possible, but despite precautions a murder still happened, inside a locked room, with the only exit being observed by a witness! Can Kirigiri and Yui solve this impossible murder and catch the Committee in Kitayama Takekuni's Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 (2013)?

This is the second novel in the Kirigiri spin-off series of the Danganronpa video game series, focusing on the early years of Kirigiri Kyouko's career as a detective. As I mentioned in the review of the previous book, each book features its own seperate case(s), but the books do form one big narrative together, so it assumes you have read the previous book (which explained how Kirigiri and Yui became friends and how they first learned about the Crime Victim Salvation Committee). This book focuses on the Detective Auction storyline. Knowledge of the main Danganronpa series is not neccesary at all.

The murders organized by the Crime Victim Salvation Committee have an inherent game-like quality to them. The murders are meant to be shown to the sponsors as a form of amusement, so the battle of wits between murderer and detective is always fair, and has clear rules. The murderer is given the advantage with all the murder plans and means, but the detective (who is chosen by the Committee without their knowledge) for example is given seven days (168 hours) to solve the case once they have opened the notification letter and they can not be killed by the murderer under any circumstances (the detective can also just ignore the notification). What is even more interesting is that the detective is actually sent a list with everything the murderer got from the committee, from the type of murder plan purchased to other objects provided. The list is shown at the start of the story, so you are told right away there'll be a locked room murder, and that it's set in a hotel, and this and that will be used. The thing is: there's no context. The detective (and the reader) will have to figure out themselves how all those elements will be used in the murder plan. This is an extremely original and daring way to start a detective story, basically giving you the grocery list already, but not telling you whether the cook will be making a pie or a stew.

In the Detective Auction, this game-like element is emphasized, because the murder plan is executed through an actual game, with its own set of rules (that go on top of the rules of the Comittee). Buying "Detective Rights" in an auction, outsmarting the others, etcetera: it's all very reminiscent of a series like Liar Game, and that is not a bad thing at all. In fact, Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 remains very exciting throughout, as the cast not only tries to solve the murder(s), they must also figure out a way to win the auction in order to secure the Detective Rights (if the winner of the Detective Rights doesn't want to save the others, the others are screwed). Like always with these kinds of stories, the crux lies at a very close reading of the rules and being just a bit more clever than the rest. Great, engaging stuff going on here.

The impossible murders (yes, multiple of them) in this novel are always fairly clever (even if they are basically the same trick repeated).  Like I mentioned earlier, the story already tells you what sort of murder you can expect, and what will play a part in those plots, but it is still up to the protagonists, and the reader, to figure out how everything fits together. While I have a few questions about the logistics of this murder plot (you'd need to do a lot in little time), it is, fundamentally, a great impossible murder plot, with proper hinting (both through the 'grocery list', and through 'normal' hints in the story). What makes this plot especially impressive is that it is intricately connected to the above mentioned "Detective Auction". The synergy between these two sides is amazing, and really a good example of having all things in a story work together.

This book is almost twice the length of the previous book (despite being only slightly more expensive), and while the first book kinda felt like an extended short story, Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 was truly a novel-length experience. The books definitely aren't cheap though, compared to other (Japanese) soft-cover releases, but this one is a lot more cost-effective than the previous book.

Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 was a great mystery novel overall, that manages to flesh out the elements introduced in the first book in unexpected, but very welcome ways. The fusion it offers between 'game' and 'murder mystery' is excellent and I can only hope the next book will be at least as good as this one. The only 'but' I have is that it is part of a series, and while knowledge of the bigger Danganronpa series is not necessary, it's probably better to start with the first book of the Dangannronpa - Kirigiri novels.

Original Japanese title(s): 北山猛邦 『ダンガンロンパ 霧切り2』

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sea Breeze in Yokohama

波の上漂う海月をみるのが好きで
いつまでもどこか遠い世界想い馳せるよう
「君という光」 (Garnet Crow)

I like watching the jellyfish floating on the waves
Like I am always thinking of a world faraway
"A Light Called You" (Garnet Crow)

Man, I love these covers. The previous book had the same kind of cover, with blue and yellow, but they look really great.

Three members of the Kazegaoka High School Newspaper Club decided to visit the Yokohama Marumi Aquarium for a special report on the place. The aquarium is a small local aquarium that doesn't appear in the major tourist guides, but it has been an appreciated cornerstone of Yokohama for many years. The Newspaper Club managed to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour and interview with the director, but their interview is cut short in the most cruel way, when one of the trainers is thrown inside the shark tank with a cut neck: the shark made sure little was left of the victim's upper body. Police investigations quickly show that the murderer must have attacked the victim on the catwalk above the tank in the 'backyard' of the aquarium (the off-limits area) and then thrown him in the tank, but interrogation of the suspects leads to a surprising conclusion. While they have eleven suspects, from the other trainers to office workers to the vet and a part-time cleaner, they all have perfect alibis! As the police investigation doesn't appear to be going anywhere, the leading inspector decides that even though he really doesn't want to, he needs to ask the help of Urazome Tenma, the brilliant Kazegaoka student who solved the Gymnasium Murder some months earlier. Tenma, who lives illegally on school grounds, agrees to solve the alibi problem (in exchange for a new AC unit in his room) in Aosaki Yuugo's Suizokukan no Satsujin ("The Aquarium Murder", 2013).

Aosaki Yuugo's 2012 debut novel, Taiikukan no Satsujin ("The Gymnasium Murder") was a fantastic, Ellery Queen-inspired impossible murder mystery. The book even featured an alternative English title, The Black Umbrella Mystery, which invoked that Queen spirit too. Suizokukan no Satsujin continues in that spirit and likewise features an extra English title: The Yellow Mop Mystery and yes, a mop will turn out to be very important to the plot.

Taiikukan no Satsujin was one of my favorite read mysteries in 2015, because it was a great fusion between a young, high school student cast (including light, funny banter) and an extremely intricate mystery plot that was anything but juvenile. The way it used Queen-like logic-based reasoning to solve a mechanical locked room mystery was amazing, and while the trick itself was not surprising, the way otaku-detective Tenma arrived at the solution was. So I had high expectations of its sequel.

But I have to say I am not as positive about Suizokukan no Satsujin. The biggest problem is its enormous pool of suspects (eleven persons). A lot of the investigation is focused on the alibi of all eleven suspects, and by that I mean you need to keep in mind the exact movements of all these suspects up to the minute! It is utterly unbelievable that on any common workday, people would remember their movements up to the minute ("I was in the office until 09:57, had a talk with X in the hallway until 10:03, then had a coffee at 10:05, etc."). If it's like in Ayukawa Tetsuya's Kuroi Trunk, where there was an investigation into one specific person's alibi (using a train), okay, this approach can be both believable and viable, but not for eleven persons moving around in an aquarium. It's just too much, and after a while the reader loses interest with all the specific time-stamps. The large number of suspects reminds a bit of Arisugawa Alice's debut novel, Gekkou Game, which suffered too from a bit too many homogeneous suspects.

Like any proper Queen-inspired mystery novel, Suizokukan no Satsujin focuses very much on physical clues (objects) and their use. Deductions are made by looking at the state of an object, and imagining what actions, or knowledge, could have resulted in that state, and said deductions lead to new insights, which again bring new light to other objects/circumstances, etc. (see also this post on clues). Like the alternative English title suggest, a mop left near the shark tank proves to be of importance in this story, and while I admit that the final solution revealed is quite impressive on a technical level, I'll also admit that it didn't do as much to me as I had expected. Maybe I had already been exhausted by the constant alibi-checking of all those suspects. Halfway in the book, Tenma already reveals something of importance, and I thought that was much more exciting than the actual conclusion of the story. But I'll say that at a technical, plot level, this book is really well done. I just didn't feel as invested in this story as with Aosaki's debut novel.

Oh, and like with the previous novel, this book has something extra to offer if you know your manga and anime. Protagonist Tenma is a huge otaku, and he drops references left and right. These can be very subtle, and I only managed to catch a couple of them (I am especially bad with more recent anime), but man, it'd be difficult to do Translator's Notes for this book! I myself am proud I caught the Maison Ikkoku one (Maison Ikkoku is awesome).

Overall, Suizokukan no Satsujin is a well-constructed mystery novel, but it's also a novel where "less is more" applies. I think I'd really have enjoyed this novel better if it had been less detailed. Now it's just overwhelming and after a while, you just stop caring where X was at 09:56 and at 10:14. But now, I can only recommend this book with "Yes, but...".

Original Japanese title(s): 青崎有吾 『水族館の殺人』