Saturday, August 1, 2009


"What would be the fun of that? Where's your planning? Where's your clues?"
"I don't want any clues. I want to murder you. What do I want with clues?"
Well, if you haven't got any clues, where's your book?"
I am not talking about writing books, I'm talking about killing you!",
 "Shadow of a Doubt"

While I like to read Japanese detectives, my Japanese language skills just aren't sufficient enough to even try to emulate my reading speed in English. Which means I still can't really practice the ancient Japanese art of tachiyomi and it also means that 'normal' length books take ages to read in Japanese. Luckily, I am more of a short story reader.

But I do read longer books occasionally and it took almost my whole week, but I finally finished Nikaidou Reito's Kyuuketsu no Ie ("House of Blood Suckers"). Nikaidou is one of the most famous modern orthodox mystery writers in Japan, but because his work has not been translated, he is hardly known in the West (c.f. Shimada Souji, Norizuki Rintarou whose work have been translated). The one mention I found about Nikaidou in English even had his name wrong (Reijin and Reihito). Anyway, Nikaidou's tend to be very long and he might even hold the record for longest detective novel, as his Jinroujou no Kyoufu ("The Terror of Werewolf Castle") is approximately 2600 pages long. Luckily, Kyuuketsu no Ie was a mere 600 pages long.

Nikaidou is known as the Japanese Carr (a nickname which he shares with Yokomizo Seishi, by the way), which is not bad company. It does show in Kyuuketsu no Ie, where we are treated to a locked room murder and two impossible crime situations, all connected to a family curse. It just breathes Carr with suggestions of the supernatural. Definately going to try more of Nikaidou. The relatively shorter books at least.

The writer is also very S.S. van Dine-ish in his use of the footnote. Don't be surprised if one chapter has more than 10 footnotes. However, the question remains however if the use of footnotes is fair. Some footnotes are Dine-ish extra information on certain point (like me trying to wikify every word in my posts), but some footnotes are (mis)directions how certain statements are (not) important. Even more enigmatic are the ones in the conclusion, where Nikaidou uses his footnotes to "prove" he planted the clues in earlier parts. But he also planted clues in the footnotes (as in information not mentioned anywhere in the book, except for in the footnotes), which is kinda misleading as in my opinion, vital information should never be in footnotes (or in brackets). Of course, the art of detective fiction is the art of misdirection, but come on, the footnotes! That is like writing the name of the murderer in the fine print! I did enjoy his copulous references to other detective novels. It's clear where Nikaidou got his inspiration from, with pages of dialogue devoted just to discussion about classic detective fiction.

At least it was a lot better than Gyakuten Houtei - Saiban'in Kouryaku Dokuhon ("Turnabout Courtroom - Jury Member Walkthrough"), a book based on the Gyakuten Saiban ("Phoenix Wright") game series. Alright, it is not very difficult to write a better story than this one. It is supposed to be a detective story that using the Gyakuten Saiban characters introduces the new Japanese jury system (implemented in May 2009) and background information to err... I guess gamers. And it did offer me a lot of information concerning the jury system in Japan in easy to read Japanese, flowcharts and cute characters (information which somehow, someday surely will come in handy), but it was a ridiculous story, disappointing in both the usage of the characters as well as the plot. Ah, if only I wasn't so susceptible to Gyakuten Saiban merchandise...

And as I am writing about the Japanese Carr and games anyway, I am pretty psyched about the upcoming Nintendo DS title Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo: Akuma no Satsujin Koukai ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Devil's Murder Voyage"). Because I am very susceptible to Kindaichi merchandise. 必ず買ってみせる、名探偵と言われたジッチャンの名にかけて!

Today's song: The Alfee - Justice for True Love


  1. Vampires and wherewolves? that sounds a bit, odd for detective novels?

  2. Actually, the suggestion of the supernatural, for example vampires and werewolves, is something that comes up in the works of several writers (especially Carr), usually connected to impossible crimes like locked rooms and sudden disappearances (because the supernatural offers a 'solution' to those problems).

    'Detective Conan' occasionally has these kinds of stories (an early one with a Tengu for example), but when talking about the supernatural and impossible crimes in Japan, the 'Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo' series should come in mind.

    It's a bit like 'Scooby-Doo', only with dismemberments. And other grotesque stuff.

    (Strangely enough though, such stories seem seldom to feature Japanese youkai. Even within the long history of Kindaichi Shounen, I can only think of Yuki-Onna and Toilet no Hanako at the moment. )

  3. Vampires and werewolves aren't even the strangest supernatural entities afoot in the impossible crime story. Hake Talbot's "The Rim of the Pit", one of the eeriest detective stories ever written, set in a claustrophobic snowbound lodge, seemingly impossible situations are created by the legendary Windigo. One of the suspects is even chased by what appears to be a winged creature! <3

    Carter Dickson's "The Unicorn Murders" contains a few grisly murders, apparently committed by a cursed and invisible unicorn.

    And let us not forget this classic: "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

  4. I've been eyeing the book with the vampires. The detection wiki that's linked here says the author "challenges" Carr's impossible murder in his Tennis Court Murder (aka Problem of the Wire Cage). Does this mean the author did the same problem with a new solution, or did he do an improved variation on Carr's solution? If the latter, which do you think is the better version so readers can start with that one?

    1. Haven't read The Problem of the Wire Cage, so while I do vaguely recall there is a no-footprints murder inside a tennis court or something like that in this novel, I can't really comment on how it compares to Wire Cage. The tennis court murder wasn't even really the main problem of this book, and it's been so long, I remember very little of it to be honest.

    2. How can you not recall a book's plot after 10+ years ;p

      What are some of your favorite no-footprint murders by the way? I always found it an intriguing problem. Haven't read that many, but I love the one from Halter's Lord of Misrule (even if it won't be to everyone's taste). Other standouts are Osaka's "The Cold Night's Clearing", Porges' "No Killer Has Wings", Halter's "The Flower Girl", Carr's She Died a Lady, and a minor one from Shimada's Slanted Mansion

    3. Have you read Ayukawa's The White Room? :D [/self-promotion]

      Yokomizo's The Honjin Murders is one I really like visually. I'm also a fan of Arisugawa's The Swedish House Mystery, because it mixes the impossible situation with the more logical reasoning mode of Arisugawa/Queen/etc. Norizuki's Locked Room in the Snow is somewhat similar in spirit. Some of the relatively recent reads I remember vividly are Mitsuda's shorts Those Who Walk Like The Dead Spirits and Those Who Drip Like Corpse Wax, both excellent stories. The sixteenth issue of the doujin comic Sharaku Homura "The Ogress With the Robe of Feathers" was highly memorable too. The no-footprints part of the story in the Detective Conan anime original The Case of the Furisode of the Hot Spring Hidden In The Snow Darkness is only part of the whole mystery, but it's a very good example of being a tightly plotted mystery that connects the two murders in an ingenious manner.

      And huh, I don't even remember the no-footprints murder of Slanted Mansion, I only remember the err... big one :P

    4. Thanks for the recommendations. Will keep those in mind.
      Yes, I've read the White Room. That was a very good one. The solution is basic, but it fits great with the sequence of events before and after the murder. I like when the solution is a consequence of the story's events rather than a trick that you can replace and everything else would be the same

      Whoops, the no-footprints in Slanted Mansion isn't a murder, but a puzzle of how someone was able to erect a couple of scarecrows (or something like that) around the mansion overnight without leaving any footprints

  5. More than a year passed since my comment, but I finally read Kyuuketsu no Ie. I love the premise of a mad poisoner in a Yokomizo-esque setting, it's like Problem of the Green Capsule meets Honjin Murders! Even at 600 pages, it's rarely dull. All 3 impossible murders were fun. The tennis court murder was definitely original! As for the main no-footprints murder in the past, it's a cool blindspot but I was a bit underwhelmed. With all the praise I've read, maybe I was expecting something more like a shin honkaku grand trick. Maybe I'll grow to like the trick more with time, but a very pleasant read overall!

    1. If you like the general feeling of this book, you'll definitely like all the other Ranko books (at the very least, the ones until Werewolf Castle), so plenty of reading pleasure awaiting you ;)

    2. Thanks. I'm about halfway into Saint Ursula's Convent, and I like the setting and atmosphere. Even if the mystery plot won't turn out be that great, I'll still be satisfied

      Did you read Ashibe's 殺人喜劇の13人? It beat House of Vampires to the Ayukawa award that year so it must be great
      Also did you manage to read 魔術王事件? It's probably not as good as the early Ranko books, but I've seen a few Bookmeter reviews praise one of the tricks. You might as well finish the Labyrinth saga ;p

    3. I have a lot of Ashibe, but that one not yet! And nope, I haven't read that last Ranko left yet ^_^' Perhaps after a new novel comes out first :P