Monday, April 16, 2018

番外編:The 8 Mansion Murders

It's that time of the year again! Hay fever? Well, yes, that too, but the last few years, the early spring has also been the period for me to do a service announcement that should interest those who like Japanese mystery fiction.

In 2015, I was more than excited to announce that Locked Room International would publish Yukito AYATSUJI's The Decagon House Murders, and that I was responsible for the translation of that ingenious homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The year after, we followed up with Alice ARISUGAWA's The Moai Island Puzzle, a mystery novel I personally see as one of the greatest Japanese experiments in deduction, beating Ellery Queen at his own game. Both these novels were excellent examples of the shin honkaku, or new orthodox mystery novel movement that started in the second half of the eighties in Japan, when a group of young university students started making their debuts as professional writers with puzzle plot mysteries that harkened back on the Golden Age, but with an imbedded meta-concious tone. In 2017, I worked on The Ginza Ghost, a short story collection of (mostly) impossible mysteries from the 1930s-1940s by Keikichi OSAKA, a brilliant master of the short story who sadly enough became a forgotten writer after World War II, but who has recently regained a very appreciative audience.

For 2018, we're going back to shin honkaku, back to modern puzzle plot mysteries that pay homage to Golden Age mystery fiction, but also build upon that and even dare to go further. By now it's known that the shin honkaku movement was born in Kyoto, as most of the shin honkaku writers originated from Mystery Clubs from universities in the ancient capital of Japan. The most influential was the Kyoto University Mystery Club, where writers like Ayatsuji and Norizuki came from (Arisugawa came from Doshisha University's MC). For Locked Room International's third shin honkaku novel, we have the first novel of the third author who debuted from Kyoto University Mystery Club. Takemaru ABIKO's The 8 Mansion Murders was originally released in 1989, but the English version is scheduled to be released coming May. The novel's a tribute to the impossible crime mystery in the spirit of John Dickson Carr, which also happens to be a hilarious adventure. Comedy is a trademark of Abiko, but don't let the funny bickering between the various characters fool you, as the core is as classic as you can get, with impossible murders inside an odd, "8"-shaped house and! and a genuine locked room lecture!

Publishers Weekly has an early starrred review up and deemed The 8 Mansion Murders "one of the funniest and cleverest novels of its type to hit the English-language market in years." My own review from many years ago can be found here. Of the novels I've done for Locked Room International now, I think The 8 Mansion Murders is not only by far the funniest, it's also the most accessible I think, with a more classic, but certainly not less entertaining set-up.

Takemaru ABIKO writes mystery plots for a wide variety of mediums, and has especially been influential in the videogame world. The game Kamaitachi no Yoru was a genuine game-changer for mystery games back in the mid-90s (the first where you had to input the name of the culprit yourself!), and an English localized version is available on iOS and Android under the name Banshee's Last Cry. He has also worked on the 3DS mystery/science-fiction game The Starship Damrey and on certain scenarios of the fantastic 428 (English release 2018). The 8 Mansion Murders however will be the first time one of his novels will be translated into English.

Anyway, I hope you'll have as much fun with The 8 Mansion Murders as I had with translating it. The book will once again feature an introduction by Soji SHIMADA, and (a lot!) of footnotes both by the author himself and me. For those who enjoyed The Decagon House Murders and/or The Moai Island Puzzle, I'd say this is a must-read, as it builds on the same tradition, but with a very different tone from those works.

22 comments :

  1. Good news keeps pouring in lately! Recently, I was informed that another collection of locked room stories by Arthur Porges is scheduled for August and now we have another shin honkaku impossible crime novel to look forward to. Some people wonder why I can't seem to take break from the impossible crime genre. This is why!

    "...and (a lot!) of footnotes both by the author himself and me."

    You're our Carl Horn! :)

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    1. What, you pick up on the footnotes, but not on the locked room lecture? >_>

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    2. Hey, I'm being overwhelmed by locked room goodness over here. But, yes, a locked room lecture is always a welcome feature. Hopefully, this one lists some of those typically Japanese corpse-puzzles that are sometimes used to create an impossible situation.

      By the way, the crossbow on the cover looks weird. Like it's attached to a mechanical arm and it looks like smoke, or steam, is coming out of it. Was the cover originally some kind of steam punk artwork?

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    3. The Lecture is very much inspired by Carr's one, though err, with a lot more comedy. I mean, Dr. Fell knew he was being meta: the one in this novel knows its being meta about a meta essay.

      The original Japanese cover(s) for the various releases were all variaties of featuring a house with a 8-shape, I think. The crossbow plays an important part in the story though ;)

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  2. Finally! :D A translated Japanese mystery novel that I can purchase without feeling guilty that I already own the Chinese translation. Great news!

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    1. It had to happen sooner or later ;P

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  3. This. Sounds. Amazing. Thanks as ever for all your work -- and keep 'em coming!

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    1. Thank you for reading, and I hope you'll like it!

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  4. Congrats on another successful translation!
    Looking forward to it! :D

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  5. This is great news!

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  6. Super hyped! Day 1 buy just like the other novels you've translated! Thank you for your hard work! <3

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    1. Thank you for reading! Hope you'll have fun with this novel too!

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  7. How many of these locked room and impossibilities lectures have the Japanese produced up to date?..

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    1. Quite a few. Off the top of my head, earlier this year I read Ooyama Seichirou's "The Locked Room Collector" short stories; and it had a fairly good one, where one of the characters lists up to 8 logical reasons as to why a culprit would want to create a locked room in the first place. There are many others in other books; some more well-written and in-depth, some mentioned offhandedly.

      For most detective stories where the main characters try to figure out "why a certain action is performed, and to what benefit", this topic or lecture comes up a lot...especially when an impossible situation occurs.

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    2. They pop up often enough that I'm not *really* surprised anymore if I come across one.As Wing Hong says, they appear in varying lengths, so not all are as comprehensive as others. Yamaguchi's The 13th Detective for example (reviewed a while ago) had a really short one of a few paragraphs, while the one in The 8 Mansion Murders is actually quite long. And by now, the lecture trope has grown quite wide in Japan, as I've also seen lectures on reasons for making locked rooms, specific impossible situations like no-footprints-in-the-snow, and non-impossible situations like decapitations and dying messages...

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  8. I had the good fortune of proofreading this book for LRI earlier in the month, and I enjoyed it immensely. This is my personal favorite so far among the aforementioned shin honkakus. A fine translation as well, I must say. Thanks for your valuable service, Ho-Ling!

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    1. I will have to thank you for proofreading! I'm glad you liked the book so much!

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  9. I usually read Japanese writers that have been recommended by Gosho Aoayama, but it looks like Abiko isn't in his list

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