Saturday, November 6, 2010

Murder by the Book


"It's not that you trust Mineko, you just want to trust her, right?"
"A Friend's Word of Advice"

I find most of Higashino Keigo's work to be a kind of guilty pleasure. They almost never comply to the rules of a real orthodox detective, but you can always sense Higashino Keigo's knowledge of the genre and that he is in fact intentionally avoiding the classic model and instead opts to mix it with different themes. The one theme that is pretty much in all his works is love and the consequences of love. The murders in his books are usually quite personal and a lot of pages are spent building his characters. Higashino often explores the mindsets of the criminals and more often than not you will feel some kind of sympathy for them (Yougisha X no Kenshin is a great example of this).

Kaga Kyouichirou series
Sotsugyou ("Graduation") (1986)
Nemuri no Mori ("Forest of Sleep") (1989)
Dochiraka ga Kanojo wo Koroshita ("One of the Two Killed Her") (1996)
Akui ("Malice") (1996)
Watashi ga Kare wo Koroshita ("I Killed Him") (1999)
Uso wo Mou Hitotsu Dake ("One More Lie") (2000)
Akai Yubi ("Red Fingers")  (2006)
Shinzanmono ("Newcomer") (2009)
Kirin no Tsubasa ("The Wings of the Kirin") (2011)
Inori no Maku ga Oriru Toki ("When the Curtains of Hope Come Down") (2013)

His Kaga Kyouichirou series is a somewhat more orthodox detective series compared to Higashino's other works, but is still 'different'. Last time I looked at Dochira ka ga kanojo wo koroshita, which was as a classic a detective could be, except for the fact that the name of the murderer is never mentioned. This time I looked at another book in the Kaga Kyouichirou series, a short story collection to be precise.

Uso wo mou hitotsu dake ("One more lie") collects five short stories involving crime. I don't really want to call the stories inverted detective stories, but that term is probably the closest we have. The stories are more like psychological studies of the criminals than 'normal' detectives. Higashino explores how these criminals cope with their daily life after they have commited their crime, what drove them to their crime and finally, how the police detective Kaga arrests them. In schematics, it might look a lot like Columbo or Furuhata Ninzaburou, but in fact very little is told about the crime themselves and the focus is clearly on the criminal as a person, instead of the criminal as, well, a criminal. They are the protagonists of the stories and just like in Dochira ka ga kanojo wo koroshita, Kaga is more like a figure who only works in the background.

What is interesting though, is that Higashino did came up with murder methods which would have done well in any detective. Some solutions Kaga presented were truly quite entertaining and they would've been great for Furuhata Ninzaburou or other series; however Higashino intentionally wrote the stories so readers can't solve them and thus differs from the Columbo model. It is almost a shame Higashino wrote the stories the way he did and not in a more conventional way, but that is Higashino's M.O., I guess.

Once again, Higashino is close, but not close enough. And yet, I liked this short story collection and I do think the Kaga Kyouichirou series is fun enough to explore. It is easier to recommend than his Galileo series, which can be quite silly at times. 

Original Japanese title(s): 東野圭吾 『嘘をもうひとつだけ』

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