Saturday, June 11, 2011


"Oh, yes,” said Miss Marple fervently. “I always believe the worst. What is so sad is that one is usually justified in doing so."
"A Pocket Full of Rye"

I always try to expect as little as possible of anthologies. Because often, the majority of the stories in an anthology are somewhere between mediocre to outright bad. There might be one or two stories that make the collection sorta worthwhile, but you usually have to fight a couple of frightful dragons.

Futoumei na Satsujin - Mystery Anthology ("Opaque Murders - Mystery Anthology") is probably the most boring anthology I've ever read and not even the big names like Arisugawa, Norizuki and Maya were able to save this anthology. It might explain why I've had this anthology for almost three years now and I only finished it just now. When I first started it, three years ago, I thought my proficiency in Japanese was to blame for not enjoying the stories. I gave up halfway through. But now I've read everything, and even re-read some stories, but the conclusion is that this is just an awful anthology. Halfway through I noticed there was no editor for this anthology and that should have tipped me off. The title is horribly wrong too, as several stories don't even have murders, and this is not so much a mystery anthology, but rather a crime anthology.

Arisugawa Alice's Onna Choukokuka no Kubi ("The Head of the Sculptress") is a Himura Hideo / writer Alice short story, so it's the usual: Himura and Alice are asked by the police for their assistance. The problem? The murder of a sculptress, whose head has been cut off and replaced by the head of a Venus statue. With only two suspects (her husband and the neighbour), this is  a rather small story that gives a reasonable explanation for the decapitation. A decent story, but nothing more than that (and that final clue... I'm sure I've heard it somewhere else before).

Kujira Touichirou's Animal Iro no Namida ("Animal-colored Tears") is the first story in this collection that doesn't actually contain murder. Anyway, it's the narrator's first day at a psychiatrist as the new assistant, but he is quite disappointed when he first meets doctor Namida, the head of the clinic. She is rather ditzy and doesn't even seem to be properly educated in psychology. When the first client of the day arrives and comes up with a story of seeing animals like tigers and mice, the narrator thinks the man should be sent to a mental home rather than treated here, but Namida shows that there is more behind the illusions of this patient. A story that just barely falls under the genre and really not worth reading.
Anekouji Yuu's Fukuzatsu na Izou ("A Complex Bequest") is slightly more interesting, with a rookie solicitor having to deal with the problem of two wills: which of the two is to be executed? Add in some references to Oooka Echizen, and we have a story that does actually belong to the genre, but not really an outstanding one.

Yoshida Naoki's Snow Valentine doesn't belong here. At all. Man traveling back in time, wants to change his future. A twist ending doesn't equal a mystery story! And a murder doesn't mean a mystery story per se either, but this is another story without a murder, despite the title of the anthology.

Wakatake Nanami's OL Club ni Youkoso ("Welcome to the OL Club") is heavily inspired by The Moving Finger, as both stories revolve around poison pen letters. In this story, anonymous letters are spread at a big company and a secretary is requested to find the sender of these letters. Too bad most of the deductions made are very much like those in The Moving Finger, so nothing new here. It does offer some ideas though, looking at these Japanese companies with their hierarchy and OL's and human relations as a counterpart to those Marple-ish small English villages.

Nagai Surumi's Omosugite ("Too Heavy") is another of those stories whose inclusion in a mystery anthology can be justified only barely. An OL has some problems with a former lover/co-worker in the stairs and he accidently falls down the stairs. She thinks he's dead and leaves him to be, but it seems he's still alive, even if in critical condition. And then she thinks a lot about killing him or not killing him just to get rid of him and how this all came to be and stuff and then it's really really boring and all.

Tsukatou Hajime's Eden wa Tsuki no Uragawa ni ("Eden is on the other side of the moon") is the only story with a map. My interests were aroused. A visit to a tech company by the two protagonists (who were looking for someone who used to work there) ends in a murder, as they see two men fighting on the roof of the tower opposite them, and one of them suddenly falling down into the pond at the foot of the tower. When they come looking for the man in the pond, they see he is dead, with an arrow in his back. Who shot the man down with an arrow? The solution is a rather surprising one. Maybe because it was part of this anthology, maybe because I'm not familiar with Tsukatou, but the story clearly belongs to the scientific kind of detectives like Higashino Keigo's Galileo series. I wasn't prepared for that. A sorta decent story, if you're into this kind of stories.

Kondou Fumie's Saishuushou kara ("Starting at the conclusion") indeed starts with the conclusion, when a female writer tells that she has just killed her boyfriend, an aspiring actor, and she then explains why.  It's not a bad story, but surely not impressive either.

I had some expectations for Maya Yutaka's White Christmas. His stories have amused me until now, so I had no reasons to do otherwise here. Takeshi and his daughter has invited four men to his cottage to spend Christmas.His daughter doesn't know that Takeshi has relations with all these four men. The four lovers however do know this of each other and they all vie for Takeshi's attention. As he is the center of everything, it shouldn't be too surprising when I see that Takeshi gets killed. A story that ends in a Queenian way with identifying the characteristcs of the culprit and then crossing off suspects and it is easily the best story of the bunch, but that's not saying much. It's a pretty decent story on its own, but I doubt it would rank among Maya's best.

Double Play is surprisingly a crime story by Norizuki Rintarou and not a puzzler. The story is about a murder exchange (you know, I'll kill someone for you if you kill someone for me, it's easier with the alibis and stuff), but the more interesting anecdote about this story is that Norizuki sorta rewrote this story as the puzzler Return the Gift for the short story collection Norizuki Rintarou no Shinbouken ("The New Adventures of Norizuki Rintarou"). I was planning to link to a review, but because I read the book before I started writing reviews, I don't have one on the site. Hmm..

Nevermore, I hope.

Original Japanese title(s): 『不透明な殺人 ミステリー・アンソロジー』/ 有栖川有栖 『女彫刻家の首』/ 鯨統一郎 『アニマル色の涙』/ 姉小路祐 『複雑な遺贈』/ 吉田直樹 『スノウ・バレンタイン』/ 若竹七海 『OL倶楽部にようこそ』/ 永井するみ 『重すぎて』/ 柄刀一 『エデンは月の裏側に』/ 近藤文恵 『最終章から』/ 麻耶雄嵩 『ホワイト・クリスマス』/ 法月綸太郎 『ダブル・プレイ』


  1. It's interesting that Japanese anthologists blindly stumble into the same pitfalls as their Western colleagues – right down the compulsory, but entirely out-of-place, SF/Fantasy story! Are these books compiled according to a rigid set of rules that we don't know about?

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