Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I am terrified of moving pictures. They are the dreams of an opium addict."


"This is great, fantastic! Ha ha ha... I think there's something like that among Carr's locked room tricks, but this is even more stupid."

"Detective Movie"

Vacation means I finally have time to read the books I keep buying. Which are mostly detectives. Lately, "Juggling between reports of life and writing about (Japanese) detective fiction while studying in Fukuoka, Japan" has not been the best description. So going to try to make up for that and first up is Tantei Eiga ("Detective Movie") by Abiko Takemaru. Never read any of his works and could tell you nothing about him. But for some sinister reason I had his name written on a list of writers I want to read. I just can't remember where I first came across this name. Most of the names I wrote down are new Golden Age writers, so I was at least expecting him to be that. However, I don't think Tantei Eiga is one of his better known works, I just bought this book, because it was the cheapest with a slightly interesting title.

The plot of the book is very interesting though. A star director is making detective movie, a hard-to-market movie in this age (in the long-lost past of 1990). But he has one trick up his sleeve: nobody except for him knows the solution to the story. Which of course sparks interest everywhere. Releasing scripts on a need-to-know base, filming progresses fast till they finally can start filming the last part of the movie. And then the director disappears.

Panic ensues. And hilarity. Because the movie is to be released quite soon, the crew decide to deduce the solution to the movie themselves. And then a two-layered story begins, where the book alternates between the search for the missing director and deduction sessions on the movie ending, and the events of the detective movie itself.

The book was quite entertaining, with especially the deduction sessions a highlight. Almost surreal (but hilarious) is the scene where every actor is trying to propose a solution in which they themselves are the killer, because in a detective movie, the killer is the most important role. The quest for the missing director is boring though and the final solution works only to an extent. It's really a trick that works in a) movie and b) real-life, but it just feels somewhat underwelming in book-form. This book would actually work great as a movie, now I think about it. Add in loads of movie trivia and it's a fun book for those who enjoy movies and detectives. And Detective Movies.

Not too sure about Abiko though. While certainly not bad, my first impression is kinda lukewarm, whereas my first encounters with writers like Norizuki Rintarou and Shimada Souji where superspecialawesome. Though I am interested in the scenario Abiko penned for the game 428 ~ Fuusa sareta Shibuya de, which at this point is incredible. I hate Abiko's name though. It's a Japanese name I've never seen before and I keep typing Akibo (every single time for this post), because it sounds (just slightly) less awkward.  

Original Japanese title(s): 我孫子武丸 『探偵映画』


  1. I got your name from The 8 mansion murders Eng. translation (although I have read Decagon House murders long time ago but the translator's name wasnt highlighted); googled-the-shit-out of your name and came across this blog, which has been such an important resource. I was only aware of some of the big names in Japanese mystery writers and sad about the meager availability of works translated in English. But this blog! Not only did I learn about more writers but also came across your translation works of short stories. I started reading it from the start and I'm about to finish the first year of your writing.
    Keep up the good work and happy to see you've come full circle from feeling lukewarm about Abiko Takemaru's work to translating The 8 Mansion Murders.

    1. Hi! Glad you enjoy the blog! I really should redo those old translations one day, because they're really old now...

      As for Abiko, I really enjoyed his work for videogames and in tone, I think The 8 Mansion Murders is closer to those videogames than this particular book (also due to T8MM's classic set-up as opposed to the more modern/less strict set-up of this novel).