Saturday, August 22, 2009



"He said murder cases are the modern myths. Myths are stories of gods, devils and men, and in the case of murders, detectives are the gods, murderers are devils and victims are humans", Akechi Kogorou, "Meitantei nanka kowakunai"

Crossover fiction tend to turn out either horribly wrong or superspecialawesome. Usually, there is no middle ground. Opinions on even the mediocrest of stories can dragged all the way to the positive side, merely due to the presence of characters of different series. Nishimura Kyoutarou's Meitantei nanka kowakunai ("Not afraid of something like great detectives") just had to be immensly entertaining, as it features four famous detectives, Ellery Queen's Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Simenon's Maigret and Edogawa Rampo's Akechi Kogorou. I hold a special interest in three of these characters, so I was really excited about this book.

But then again, I had read some other books of Nishimura Kyoutarou before. He is an insanely prolific writer, famous for his train mysteries in Japan. In pretty much every Book-Off I visited, a minimum of 30 novels of him were to be found. Heck, the small Book-Off in Ekota had at least 60 novels of him in the bookcases, and two large discount boxes filled with exclusively his books. Two stories of him are translated in English, The Mystery Train Disappears and the short story The Kindly Blackmailer (in: Ellery Queen's Japanese Golden Dozen), but both were not very impressing. Thus even though I was excited about Meitantei nanka kowakunai, I was afraid this might be one of those trainwreck crossovers.

Luckily, this was the best novel I had read of Nishimura. With a plot that revolves around the infamous 300 Million yen robbery it was an OK story on its own, but having those four detectives together makes it a worthwile book. It does spoil the solutions to some famous stories however (spoiling both Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Akroyd? Blasphemy!) and the discussion where Akechi Kogorou's hints at more than friendly relations with both his chronicler Edogawa Rampo and the kid Kobayashi, is kinda disturbing.

But overall, the book is entertaining and it even features a Queensian Challenge to the Reader, where the story stops to signify every clue needed to solve the mystery has been presented and thus the reader should be able to solve the mystery now. Fair play mysteries at its best.

Of course, having four great detectives on the scene is hardly fair to the murderer. Or to the normal people, who have to suffer quite a bit from the sarcasm and haughty behavior of those great minds. Luckily for those people, crossovers in detective fiction are not very common. 

Original Japanese title(s): 西村京太郎 『名探偵なんか怖くない』


  1. The only real detective crossover that I know of, in which two authors actually pooled their detectives, is "The People vs. Withers & Malone" by Stuart Palmer and Craig Rice. It's a collection of half dozen short stories in which Palmer's Hildegarde Withers, "that meddlesome old battle-axe", joins forces with Rice's hard drinking Chicago lawyer John J. Malone. Together, they solve many difficult cases by provoking Murphy's Law. It's, as you would say, superspecialawesome! :)

    Any real crossovers like that in Japan?

  2. I am not sure actually. But with the seemingly good relations between the current modern classic writers like Norizuki, Arisugawa and Shimada, a similar collaboration work wouldn't seem strange at any rate.