Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cat Food

『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』 東川篤哉

"You don't have to act so surprises just because my client was murdered. According to some, having your client killed is an important step to become a real detective. A lot of the famous detectives in the past had their clients murdered. It's actually quite common."
Did he mean the detectives were killing the clients themselves? There were probably such cases, Akemi thought, but she didn't say it out loud in front of a detective. So, a different question.
"So what's a detective with a murdered client going to do?"
"Take revenge instead of my client and find the murderer, is the common way of doing things. Do that, and you'll finally be considered a real detective."
"How Many Cats Do You Need For A Perfect Crime?" (Higashigawa Tokuya)

Writing the Dogura Magura review was definitely more tiring than I had expected. But it's honestly the only way I could think of writing something on it. But because of that, I have a horrible backlog of reviews-to-be-written. Well, at least I don't have to worry about material to post about this month.

Goutokuji Toyozou is the owner of the popular sushi chain Manekizushi and a great cat lover. In fact, Manekizushi's trademark is a grand maneki-neko in front of every restaurant (lovingly called "colomeow Meownders"). But his beloved cat has disappeared, so Goutokuji hires the private detective Ukai Morio to find her. The search for the cat isn't going as smooth like Ukai would have wanted, and the murder on Goutokuji in the glass house in his garden some days later isn't really helping the case either. Why was the murderer wearing a cat mask, why was the gigantic maneki-neko statue moved from the mansion's entrance to the glass house and where is that cat of Goutokuji? In short, like the title Kanzen Hanzai ni Neko wa Nanbiki Hitsuyouka? says: how many cats do you need for a perfect crime?

The third novel of Higashigawa Tokuya's Ikagawashi series, which has become familiar terrain by now. Once again we follow the (mis)adventures of private detective Ukai, Ryuuhei (and the office's landlord Akemi) on one side, and the police represented by inspector Sunagawa and his subordinate Shiki on the other side. Like with Higashigawa's other series (like the Koigakubo Academy Detective Club series and Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de), humour plays a large part in these stories. There are a lot of slapstick-funny moments and the whole tone of the book is quite light, but as always the humour shouldn't fool you, because these are all wonderfully constructed Golden Age style detective novels and even the funny moments might contain a crucial hint that leads to the solution of the case.

Like the first novel in the series, Kanzen Hanzai ni Neko wa Nanbiki Hitsuyouka is a bit on the easy side, but the way Higashigawa manages to blend the humour with the proper detective plot is still very enjoyable to see. Part of the humour is derived from mirroring scenes of Ukai and his disciple Ryuuhei, with the events that happen to inspector Sunagawa and Shiki. There is probably an awfully intellectual way to explain how the humour works through the juxtaposition of scenes, but I definitely can't. I just know I like this kind of humour.

The problem of who killed the client, and the mystery behind the moving manekineko is as said a bit easy. The phrase Simpsons did it is strangely enough usable here (no, it's not the Mr. Burns story), but even without having seen it, the hint seems just too... obvious. Especially after the first two novels, the presentation of the main hint seemed a bit crude. There is another murder in the story, of someone at a funeral, and that was much better in terms of tying it up to seemingly meaningless humorous banter. In fact, I very much liked this murder at the funeral (not to be confused with Christie's After the Funeral).

The cat-theme did bring up memories of a discussion I was once present at on so-called cat-mysteries. When is it appropiate to call something a cat-mystery (or more broadly; an animal mystery)? Kanzen Hanzai ni Neko wa Nanbiki Hitsuyouka for example does feature a lot of cat themes, like the manekineko, the murderer's cat mask and the search for the missing cat, but some might argue for fiction where cats themselves play an active role in the case. A series like Akagawa Jirou's Mikeneko Holmes can thus be considered the cat-mystery, but one could also consider a cat leading detectives to clues / murderers to be a bit unrealistic. And I guess that Morikawa Tomoki's Cat Food (with magical cats) is also out of the questions. And if we are only looking at mystery fiction where animals act...well, you'd expect the animal in question to behave, would it be possible to consider Gyakuten Saiban / Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney a parrot mystery?

And yes, this was not that interesting a review.  It's relatively easy to write about a really good, or bad book, but filling a post on something slightly beneath average - average - slightly above average is surprisingly difficult.

Original Japanese title(s): 東川篤哉 『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』

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