Wednesday, July 6, 2011



"Impossible? Who proved that?

Wu... Wait, a book? Not even Conan-related? A miracle. But with a live action Detective Conan series starting tomorrow, I think the Conan-theme will continue for a while...

The title is impossibly long, but Shin Honkaku Suiri Tokubetsu-hen - Fukanou Hanzai no Kyouen ("New Orthodox Detective Special - Banquet of Impossible Crimes") is a very nice anthology edited by Nikaidou Reito and includes two essays (one by Nikaidou himself), though I will only focus on the stories here. Like the titles suggest, this is an anthology that focuses on impossible crimes. The anthology I discussed last time was horrible, but with an editor like Nikaidou (who also specializes in impossible crimes), I wasn't too worried about this one and in fact I was kinda curious, as I didn't know any of these writers. Yes, when I bought this book, I accidently thought that a Nikaidou Reito novel was included. Oh, and for the tags for this posts: I didn't include the Japanese names for these writers as they took up too many characters (200 characters limit apparently).

The anthology starts off good, with Mitsuda Shinzou's Shirei no Gotoki Aruku Mono ("It Walks like a Ghost"). A man is found dead in a snowy courtyard, poisoned with a very violent poison. What's so utterly impossible about the murder is that the first man on the scene swears he saw a pair of geta walking away from the body towards the building. And indeed, the only footprints in the court are from a pair of geta leading away from the dead body. Was it a ghost that commited the murder? The plot and trick is pretty good, but I didn't really like Mitsuda's writing style and even though this is the anthology's first story, I finished this last as I had to give up several times midway through.

The second story is a more fantasy-like story, but a nice one nonetheless. Hana Chiru Yoru ni ("On the Night the Flowers Scattered") (Mitsuhara Yuri) tells us about the Devil's Fruit. The fruit is too hard to eat, but if you soak the fruit in liquor, the liquor acquires mysterious powers: it is capable to heal all illnesses, but it has two side effects: the patients falls in a deep, deep sleep (two days at the least) after drinking it and more importantly, it erases the patient's dearest memory. Ever since her grandfather died, Hatsune has been tending to the trees with the Devil's Fruit and preparing the liquor. One day, the king of a neighbouring country brings his queen to Hatsune, asking her to save his queen, who is dying from an ilness. She tells them about the side effects, but they decide to take the medicine anyway and Hatsune leaves them in a little hut next to her house on a hill. That night however, the king is found stabbed to death outside the hut, on a bed of scattered flowers of the Devil's Fruit. Nobody could have climbed the hill without the guards noticing, nor was the only other person (beside Hatsune) in any state to kill the king, as the queen was already sleeping soundly due to the Devil's Fruit. Nice, rather dreamy, story.

I have to admit that I don't remember everything about Higashigawa Tokuya's Jisoku Yonjuu Kilo no Misshitsu ("A Locked Room at 40 KM/H") as I read it a long time ago. If I remember correctly though, a private detective and his assistent are on a stake-out, trying to gather evidence in an adultery case. Their target however is on to them and she hides her lover inside a chest (or was it a sofa?) and aks a friend (who is a professional mover) to pick up the chest and help her lover escape, hoping to fool the detectives. They're not that stupid though, and the assistent follows the moving truck on his motorbike. After a long ride (@ 40km/h), he and the truck have an accident and he ends up on the truck. There he discovers a pool of blood coming out of the chest (or sofa?) and consequently, the dead body of the lover. Who killed him, and more importantly how, as the assistent was riding behind the truck the whole time. ever since they left the adulterer's home The trick is not totally fair, if I remember correctly, or at least, very dependent on luck and coincidences.

While overall, this anthology is really good, I like Ishimochi Asami's Hanging Game the best. It's the first story in his This Country series, a set of stories set in a fictional single party state (that is almost totalitarian). Capital punishment is still in use here and even exploited: executions (by hanging) are held in big stadiums and tickets are sold to the masses, who love these shows. Panem et circenses. One day, the head of a rebel party is to be hanged, but the executioner, Major Banjou, is pretty sure that members of the rebel party are hiding in the audience, hoping to free their leader. What follows is a mind-game of if-you-think-that-I-think-that-you-think of Major Banjou and the two sub-leaders of the rebel party. It's almost like a Conan story (with the need of having to find out what someone hidden in a big group is planning to do), but as the viewpoint of the story switches between Banjou and the rebels, the reader has no idea who is going to win until the end.

Kagami Masayuki's Sei Alexandria Jiin no Sangeki ("Tragedy of Saint Alexandria Chapel") is set in Russia, 1920. After the revolution, Sonya has been forced to live with his mother in the Saint Alexandria Chapel, originally as paying guests, but nowadays working there as they couldn't pay back their debts. One day, the head of the chapel is found murdered, hanged besides the bells up in the chapel tower, seven meters from the floor. Who could have gotten him up there? The trick itself, or at least, one part of the trick is pretty cool (another part was utterly ridiculous though) but very clumsy clueing kinda ruins the surprise of the trick. It's just too obvious how it was done and consequently who the murderer was.

Kaburagi Ren's Karegusa no Yuki Toketareba ("When the Snow of Dried Leaves Melts") has one of those tricks that you _will_ scream at, no matter what. Something like 'this is brilliant', or 'this is utter crap!', or both. If you had told me this was a Shimada Souji trick, I would have believed it immediately. The story's set in the Taishou period, and Miyazawa Kenji (of all people!) is requested to help the main suspect in a murder case: the victim was killed on the fourth floor of the local government office (this building to be precise. Yes, it really exists) and the suspect was seen coming down the ladder from the fourth floor right after everyone heard the blood-curling scream of the victim. The suspects says he was on the third floor when he heard the scream and climbed to the fourth floor, where he only found the dead body of the victim. If the main suspect didn't do it, how did the murderer escape from the fourth floor?

This anthology brought us from a fantasy land to fictional countries, Russia and the past and now the future. In Sonoda Shuuichirou's Dakara dare mo inaku natta ("And that is why there were none"), space-traveling has been perfected and humans have been colonizing other planets. One day, Earth receives a message, with a diary, from one of the colonies in development, accompanied with video material. It seems that all eight members of the colonizing mission are dead and what's more: they have clearly been killed as most of them were decapitated. The police can only confirm seven dead bodies on the video material though. As this was sent from a far-away colony, the message was actually sent seven years earlier (and only reached the Earth recently). As it was an old mission, with most data on it lost, the police has nothing to go on except for the diary of one of the crew members and the video material. The diary says that among the crew of eight humans, one (or more) was actually an android (yes, they run according to Asimov's Laws), but none of the others know who the android was. Was it one of the defective androids, that only followed the third law of Asimov (self-preservation)? Or was it a human killer? Great story, my first SF detective actually, and one that make great use of its setting.

A really fun anthology. I liked pretty much all stories and even though these stories tend to be quite long for short stories (around 70~80 Japanese pages), most of these stories make perfect use of the page count. Nikaidou made a really nice selection, with the Mitsuhara's fantasy story and Sonoda's SF story being surprising, but great choices, as well as Ishimochi's That Country story. Especially the latter was awesome, with the rebels trying to accomplish the impossible and the major trying to prevent that. I'll be sure to pick up Ishimochi's That Country, as well as more anthologies in this series.

Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人(編集) 『新・本格推理 特別編―不可能犯罪の饗宴』 / 三田信三 「死霊の如き歩くもの」 / 光原百合 「花散る夜に」 / 東川篤哉 「時速四十キロの密室」 / 石持浅海 「ハンギング・ゲーム」 / 加賀美雅之 「聖アレキサンドラ寺院の惨劇」 / 鏑木連 「かれ草の雪とけたれば」 / 園田修一郎 「だから誰もにいなくなった」

1 comment :

  1. This seems like an amazing collection of stories, and of course your in process of translating at least one of them... right?!