Saturday, September 25, 2010


"You have to excuse me, but I've seen you play this routine time and time again. The paper shuffling, the distractions, the talk about your wife, or in this case your broken percolator. If you've got me in your cross hairs, you really have to do better than using all that crap.", 'The Gun that Wasn't', " The Columbo Collection"

Desperately trying to shorten the backlog before a ridiculous amount of books is delivered here from Japan. But I don't really think I'll be able to shorten it significantly. Especially not if I forget which books I have read and which not.

The week started with ABC Satsujin Jiken ("The ABC Murders"), an short story anthology named after Agatha Christie's classic. Like with Y no Higeki, a book discussed earlier, stories in this anthology all play with the theme of Christie's The A.B.C. Murders. Both Arisugawa Arisu and Norizuki Rintarou contributed to ABC Satsujin, as well as Onda Riku, Kanou Tomoko and Nukui Tokurou.

And as I was reading this book, I realised I had actually read half of this anthology before, but I couldn't remember what happened in the stories, so I had to re-read them. However, the fact I couldn't remember a single fact of most stories was indeed a sign the stories weren't that interesting. Maybe I had supressed them in my memories.

Which in hindsight seems plausible. Veterans Arisugawa Arisu and Norizuki Rintarou offer slightly entertaining stories with "ABC Killer" and "ABCD Houimou" ("The ABCD Line"). ABC Killer is closest to Christie's ABC, with a string of serial murders of people who are killed in alphabetic order. "The ABCD Line" starts with a man who keeps confessing to murders (and saying he's responsible for accidents), but whom it was impossible to commit those. Why would someone confess to murders he didn't commit?

Howver, the remaining stories are not interesting at all. Onda Riku's Anata to yoru to ongaku to ("You, the night and music") has an interesting setting, at a radio station, but is a mediocre story. And the strangest part is that it is less of a homage to The A.B.C. Murders, than to Ellery Queen's The Mad Tea Party or The Finishing Stroke. Kanou Tomoko's Neko no Ie no Alice ("Alice of the House of Cats") does revolve around a plot of poisoned cats (yes, in alphabetical order), but is full of distracting Alice in Wonderland references. Which again reminds more of Queen than Christie.Nukui Tokurou's Rensa suru Suuji ("Connected Numbers") is actually bad, with bad pacing in story, a bad plot and bad characters. I won't even bother writing about it.

Compared to the very entertaining Y no Higeki, this anthology is mostly disappointing. The A.B.C. Murders is one of the most famous detective stories ever and you'd think writers should be able to do more with the ingenious theme of the book. And not really related to that, but maybe I should finally start reading Alice in Wonderland.

Luckily I read The Columbo Collection afterwards, a new collection of Columbo short stories! Written by series creator William Link and published by Crippen & Landru, this set of 12 stories revive the old show. In a new setting though. It's hard to imagine the lieutenant using a cell phone. But he does. Still, what is there to complain about a continuation of good old Columbo, who'll keep hounding his suspect till he catches them on one small mistake?

Even though the series stopped many years ago, reading these stories will make you realize Columbo is a series that will never age. While these short stories are indeed short (compared to the 60 till 90 minutes episodes), the psychological fencing between murderer and Columbo is still as entertaining as ever. Looking for the one mistake the murderer made is still as exciting as ever. And everyone will read Columbo's lines with Peter Falk's voice in their heads. It's classic Columbo, in 2010. And it's good. 

Original Japanese title(s): 『ABC殺人事件』/有栖川有栖 「ABCキラー」/恩田陸 「あなたと夜と音楽と」/加納朋子 「猫の家のアリス」/貫井徳郎 「連鎖する数字」/法月綸太郎 「ABCD包囲網」

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