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!"