Tuesday, February 25, 2014

File 3: Music to be Murdered by

And once again a musical post, with the third post in my Music to be Murdered by series, where I talk about music from a variety of detective-related media! It's an irregular corner (I post whenever I feel like it), but I think I'll try to get at least one post a month out in this corner. And now, to a track I have probably mentioned several times on this blog already.

Title: Silent Shadow II
Album: Tantei Jinguuji Saburou - Yume no Owari ni 10th Anniversary Special Album

Silent Shadow II is one of the best tracks of the videogame Tantei Jinguuji Saburou - Yume no Owari ni and one of the tracks you will hear most often. Like all of soundtracks in the hardboiled detective series Tantei Jinguuji Saburou (probably the only game series to feature a dedicated 'smoking' button), Silent Shadow II is a fantastic jazzy track. It is used relatively early in the game, as background music to a section where you are investigating a disappearance. In this section, you move between locations like an university and the immense area around Shinjuku Station looking for clues and questioning people, and Silent Shadow II is an excellent musical partner to your investigations.

Game music is different from a lot of other kinds of music in the sense that many tracks are composed and meant to loop infinitely. It's the player who decides the pace of the game, and this particular section can take as long as you want, as you have the freedom to move around and to question the people as you see fit. You will therefore hear Silent Shadow II loop many times, but it is such a great track, I really don't mind. Wander around urban Shinjuku and enjoy the music.

There are actually three seperate Silent Shadow tracks in the game, each different but used in similar situations. I might introduce the other two tracks in the future.

Original Japanese title(s):  「Silent Shadow II」(GAMADELIC) 『探偵神宮寺三郎 夢の終わりに 10th ANNIVERSARY スペシャルアルバム』

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Cat's Eye

妖しく Cat's Eye
magic play is dancing
we get you… mysterious girl
"Cat's Eye" (杏里)

Bewitching Cat's Eye
magic play is dancing
Bask in the moonlight
we get you... mysterious girl
"Cat's Eye" (Anri)

I had already played often on a borrowed SEGA Dreamcast before, but I bought my own Dreamcast in 2009, when I had just arrived in Fukuoka. It provided me (and other people) with many, many hours of entertainment and I still play regularly on it. A used Dreamcast isn't expensive at all, and the games go for pretty low too. Sometimes too low. When I first bought the machine, I bought some obvious choices like Crazy Taxi and Shenmue with it, but also a game I had never heard of. It was very cheap. And it appeared to be a detective game. Now, in 2014, I've finally played that game.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko ("Web Mystery - The Cat With Foretelling Dreams") is an adventure game released very early in the life cycle of the Dreamcast. You follow Tsuda Keisuke, a programmer/designer, who is supposed to meet with a client at a net cafe. His client doesn't show up, and after becoming friendly with Mio, the girl behind the bar, Keisuke tries the computers out in the cafe (it's 1999, so internet is still relatively new). He is led to a mysterious website called Cat's Eyes, which shows him images of a man being killed. Keisuke and Mio are both surprised, but think little of it until they discover the following day that the man in the images had really been killed. And what's more, they saw the website even before the murder had happened. More and more images are sent through the site, and Keisuke and Mio try to stop the murders, find out who it is, and figure out what the secret is behind Cat's Eyes in an international adventure that will also bring them to South-Korea and Hong Kong.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko is also the worst game I've ever played. Heck, the words 'game' and 'play' don't even really apply to this! And the story being completely crazy doesn't help either.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko tells its story through FMV (full motion videos), sound novel parts (where dialogue is 'written' out on the screen accompanied by still pictures) and through a virtual desktop environment, where Keisuke (= the player) can check his e-mail and surf on the web. The problem is, the player has practically nothing to do in this game. 99% of the story is told by the FMV and sound novel combination. So most of the time, you are either watching barely acceptable acting or just reading little bits of dialogue (and for some sinister reason, they only show about three lines per screen, so it takes ages to read something). Unlike a game like Kamaitachi no Yoru, you're not allowed to make decisions in these parts, so you can only passively 'enjoy' the story, rather than deciding your own destiny.

The only time you can do anything is when Keisuke does something on the computer. You enter a virtual desktop environment and can now read e-mail or browse some websites (there's a large amount of 'webpages' about a variety of topics you can access through a portal). Problem though: the websites don't matter at all (you only have to read three websites or so over the course of the game, and they tell you when). The only thing you have to do to progress is to read an e-mail. Sure, there are lots of e-mails sent to you each time, but there's always just one important one, and the story continues if you read that one. So the only, the one and only thing you can decide in this game is the order in which you read e-mails. Making use of all the possibilities of games as a medium.

Let me repeat that: the story is set, consists mostly of FMV and clicking through dialogues and the only time you get to do anything is when you read e-mails. Walkthroughs of this game just consists of 'read mail 1' -> (exit desktop) [Watch FMV] -> 'read mail 2 -> (exit desktop) [Watch FMV] ->  etcetera etcetera.

With the title Web Mystery and a collection of faux webpages, I had actually hoped this would be something like Flower, Sun and Rain. That was admittedly a flawed game, but the way the hints to all puzzles were hidden within the pages of an island tourist guide was fantastic: I had hoped that Web Mystery would also have me digging through seemingly unrelated webpages to discover clues to continue. But no.

And just when you think Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko can't get worse, you realize the story is just crazy. Protagonist Keisuke has everything you'd expect from a chuunibyou-esque character (dark coat? Check. Traumatic past? Check. Nemesis? Check. Irresistable to the ladies, including a popular idol? Check. Genius programmer? Check), the whole plot about the images from the future makes no sense (you know your story is bad when even after saying 'it's magic', it still makes no sense) and as a detective story.... I guess Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko kinda feels like on of those two-hour mystery dramas, with Keisuke accidently getting involved in a case and him traveling to South Korea and Hong Kong, but considering there are practically no hints for the player and the story has a chaotic structure with different kinds of plots running through each other (some of them supernatural), it never feels like the player is given a fair chance.

I've played many games for as long as I can remember, and I usually try to find something good even in a bad game, but I really have nothing for Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko. The webpages are a fun idea, but none of them are really interesting (save for creating a world setting for the game). Not even the music is particularly good (which is also why I am surprised they released a soundtrack...). You can get Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko for almost nothing now, and it's one of the Dreamcast's few mystery games, but please, stay away from it. Please.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ウェブミステリー予知夢ヲ見ル猫』

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Butler Did It

"You rang?"
 "The Addams Family"

Oh, wait, there's a Jonathan Creek special coming this month?! Wow, with a new Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo TV series starting early April, the many great TV drama specials last month and the Creek special this month, this year has a very solid start in terms of mystery shows!

Higashigawa Tokuya's Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de has been a great hit in Japan; the series about a somewhat verbally abusive butler who solves all the cases of his master, a wealthy heiress and rookie police detective, has had great ratings in the bookstores, television and movie theaters. But would a butler really be so rude to his master? Of course not, Maya Yutaka must have thought as he was writing Kizoku Tantei -Der Adelsdetektiv ("The Aristocrat Detective"), a fun, but somewhat limited short story collection. In the course of five stories, we're introduced to a variety of people in different places of Japan, in different circles of society, but with one common element: the moment a murder happens, an unnamed, arrogant young man arrives, calling himself the Aristocrat Detective. And he has friends in high places, as all policemen discover whenever they try to get him out of the crime scene. But it is not he hmself who uses his mental faculties to solve the murders. No, it's his staff, from butlers to maids who do all the thinking, and talking for him. But he is their master, so he considers whatever they accomplish, as his own accomplishment. They are tools, he is the workman who uses the right tools at the right time. Or something like that.

The first story in the collection, Wien no Mori no Monogotari - Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald ("Stories from the Wienerwald"), sets the formula for the rest of the collection. A little family gathering at a snow lodge (coupled with a bit of business) ends in tragedy when the head of the family is found murdered in his locked room. His secretary, who had returned to the city, was also murdered the same night in her apartment. The police thinks it's an easy case, but then the Aristocrat Detective appears... The plot of this opening story is actually quite good. The basic idea behind this story might be relatively easy, as it is clearly written to be a very fair, and solvable puzzle, but Maya manipulates the many elements expertly and invokes the Queen spirit when the story has you thinking about why some actions were taken, which in turns leads you the the murderer. A good example of a solidly written short story, even if the separate elements (snow lodge, locked room etc) aren't really original.

Tritsch-Tratsch Polka follows two policemen who are investigating a murder. But as they are questioning witnesses, they discover that another duo, of a man and his...maid, are also following the same trail. What do they have to do with the case, and why are they asking silly questions like whether the victim was carrying an umbrella that day? I liked this story the best of this collection actually, once again a short, but sweet experience. The double mystery (the murder, and the mysterious duo with their unexpected questions) is interesting enough to keep you hooked, and the trick behind the murder is also quite surprising, but I can't really write more about that lest I enter spoiler-territory. But as a short story with a clear goal (following the witness trail and deducing as you collect more information), and a good plot, Tritsch-Tratsch Polka is definitely my favorite here.

In Koumori - Die Fledermaus ("The Bat"), two girls have some deserved relaxing time at an exclusive hotel. They become acquainted with a group of famous writers, and end up as decisive witnesses when the sister-in-law of one of the writers is murdered during a local festival. The longest story of this collection, but that doesn't mean it's better. It's too long considering the plot to be honest and the trick feels too farfetched to work (at least, in the world of Kizoku Tantei; it might work in a different fictional world, but I'll write more about that in another review), which means a small payback for a relatively (time)-expensive story. Especially compared to the previous two short, but good stories, Koumori feels like a small letdown.

Kasokudo Waltz - Accelerationen Waltzer ("Acceleration Waltz") has the reader follow a particular bad day of a literary editor, which starts with the discovery of her boyfriend cheating on her, continues with a rock falling from a mountain, causing her to crash her car and have her discover the dead body of a writer she once worked for in his mountain lodge. Her one lucky break? A certain aristocrat is determined to solve the case fast (so they can go on a date). A quick examination of the state of the house is the key to the case, and is, in theory, a bit like the opening story, Wien no Mori no Monogotari - Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald, that is, the problem is solved by figuring out why certain, somewhat strange actions were taking, which brings you to the murderer. In practice, the stories are completely different though. I prefer the opening story a bit more, but this is certainly not a bad story.

Haru no Koe - Frühlingstimmen ("Voices of Spring") can best be described as a Yokomizo Seishi-esque story. The story of a rich heiress, three candidates for marriage and murder was a favorite of Yokomizo and can be seen in for example Inugamike no Ichizoku, Jooubachi and short stories like 'Shinigami no Ya. The three suitors all live on separate floors of an annex building (lest they might force themselves on the heiress in the night), but a cry for help over the phone one night leads to the discovery of all three suitors, murdered. Who killed them and why? The mystery is surprisingly easy to solve and I have to admit that this was my least favorite story of the collection. Koumori - Die Fledermaus was too long, but I liked its core mystery plot better than the one presented here.

Overall though, I have to admit that Kizoku Tantei felt a bit... lacking. Most stories are okay, but there are no real masterpieces or stories that you will definitely remember in a few years. Even the protagonist, the Aristocrat Detective is a bit boring. He does little more than seducing women while his staff is doing the work, but even as an arrogant, rich detective (who doesn't detect himself), he is nothing special. Maya Yutaka's own Mercator Ayu is actually quite similar, as an arrogant, rich detective, but he is much more interesting and fun to follow. The Aristocrat Detective feels like a cheap knock-off, with nothing original to offer.

There is a second collection featuring the Aristocrat Detective, but I think I'll skip that one. I'll probably go back to Mercator...

Original Japanese title(s): 麻耶雄嵩 『貴族探偵』: 「ウィーンの森の物語」 / 「トリッチ・トラッチ・ボルカ」 / 「こうもり」 / 「加速度円舞曲(ワルツ)」 / 「春の声」

Friday, February 14, 2014

Confused Memories

Confused Memories
"Confused Memories" (円谷憂子)

Confused Memories
A box
Without any past or tragedy inside
That's where I want to put the world
Confused Memories (Tsuburaya Yuuko)

A new Gyakuten Saiban project led by Takumi Shuu and a new Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo TV anime series to start in April?! Lots of interesting news this morning!

Mitarai Kiyoshi series
Senseijutsu Satsujin Jiken ("The Astrology Murder Case")
Naname Yashiki no Hanzai ("The Crime at the Slanted Mansion")
Mitarai Kiyoshi no Aisatsu ("Mitarai Kiyoshi's Greetings")
Ihou no Kishi ("A Knight in Strange Lands")
Mitarai Kiyoshi no Dance ("Mitarai Kiyoshi's Dance")
Suishou no Pyramid ("The Crystal Pyramid")
Nejishiki Zazetsuki  ("Screw-Type Zazetsuki")

You open your eyes. You're stting on a bench in a park. You've fallen asleep there. It's afternoon. About time to leave. You get up, walk towards the road. You don't see your car here. Did you park it on the other side of the park? You walk back. No car here. Think. What kind of car did you drive? You can't remember. Maybe you didn't drive here? Think. How did you arrive here at the park? You can't remember. Think. Why are you here in the park? You can't remember. Think. What do you remember? Nothing. Nothing? Who are you? You can't remember. The protagonist of Shimada Souji's Ihou no Kishi ("A Knight in Strange Lands") has no memory whatsoever of his life before waking up in a park. He's naturally terribly confused, but a chance encounter with Ryouko saves him: they fall in love and start a simple, but satisfying life together. But our protagonist still wants to know how he lost his memories and what his life was before the incident, but the clues lead him to a horrible truth.

Wait, a Mitarai Kiyoshi novel about amnesia? Hadn't I already written something about that? Or was it a false memory? Actually, I did. About one year ago, I wrote about Nejishiki Zazetsuki, a 2003 novel which also featured astrologist/detective/neuro-specialist Mitarai Kiyoshi involved in a case with someone suffering from severe amnesia. Same writer, same series, same concept. How do the two novels compare?

But first, a small note. Shimada Souji's first published novel is his phenomenal Senseijutsu Satsujin Jiken, but Ihou no Kishi is actually his first written novel: just published later. The title is derived from the album (and song) The Romantic Warrior by Return to Forever (which in Japanese is rendered as Rouman no Kishi, "The Romantic Knight"), because, well, music is a recurring motif in the Mitarai novels.

Senseijutsu Satsujin Jiken and Naname Yashiki no Hanzai rank among my favorite detective novels. They're pretty classic in set-up, featuring familar tropes like locked room murders, decapitated bodies and murders around Christmas. Ihou no Kishi, the third full-length novel in the series, is less classic, featuring a plot less grand in scale. The first part of the story is set solely around the protagonist slowly setting up a life with Ryouko and also getting to know Mitarai Kiyoshi (who is still an astrologist at the time, and not a private detective). It's a set-up necessary for the rest of the story, sure, but compared to the beginning of the previous two novels, it's a bit slow and.... non-criminal. Ihou no Kishi's plot is of course built around the protagonist's search for his identity and finding out how he lost his memory, but it takes quite some time before the plot is actually there. It's only around the halfway point before the protagonist actually starts chasing after the clues, by which the reader might have already given up on the book, because the plot took too long to really start moving.

Nejishiki Zazetsuki was mostly built around reading a document, which held the clues to finding out about Egon Markut. I wasn't too much a fan of it, because it was based on the interpretation of a fantasy story, which to me seemed a bit too open-ended. Shimada has done more with deducing based on memories, be it memories in a person's mind, or written down in a document, see for example his debut work Senseijutsu Satsujin Jiken. The tropes of a story-inside-a-story and the unreliability of the human memory can thus be considered something of pet peeves of Shimada and they are used again in this novel, but in a different way than the above mentioned novels. It's also a lot shorter, making Ihou no Kishi easier to read, with more events happening in real-time (in the story), rather than happening within documents.

I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed Ihou no Kishi does not feature a grand trick like the previous two novels. Or does it? In a way, Ihou no Kishi features a plot just as ridiculous (in the good sense of the word) as other Shimada novels, but the way it's written it's hardly as convincing as stories as Senseijutsu Satsuji Jiken (and I can assure you that the things that happen there are actually quite crazy). But comparing Ihou no Kishi to Nejishiki Zazetsuki, which are very much alike, I'd say that Ihou no Kishi is more fun. Which is maybe because the underlying story works better. Both Ihou no Kishi and Neijishiki Zazetsuki can be read as 'simple', tragic love stories, but I prefer the one in Ihou no Kishi.

Not even near my favorite Shimada Souji story, but Ihou no Kishi has its interesting points as Shimada's first novel and also as part of the Mitarai Kiyoshi series. It also forms a bridge between the somewhat 'artificial' first two novels in the series, to the novels with a more fleshed-out story later in the series. Not must-read materal, but maybe when you've a bit more of Shimada's works.

Original Japanese title(s): 島田荘司  『異邦の騎士』

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Memories of the Past


"But you're as just much a Death God as Mr Mouri, you know... You keep popping up at murder scenes..."
"Detective Conan" Volume 82

Oh wow, I just realized that I haven't written reviews for the Detective Conan manga for over a year now! The last one was for volume 78, and while I definitely have been keeping up with the series, I somehow managed to forget the reviews. Again and again. And again. Let's fix that!

Detective Conan manga & movies:
Part 1: 『平成のホームズ』: The Heisei Holmes (volumes 1 ~ 10)
Part 2: 『奇妙な集まり』: A Strange Gathering (volumes 11~20; The Timebombed Skysraper/The Fourteenth Target)
Part 3: 『心強き名探偵達』: The Brave Detectives (volumes 21~30; The Last Wizard of the Century/Captured in Her Eyes) 
Part 4: 『白い影・・・黒い影・・・』: White Shadow... Black Shadow... (volumes 31~40; Countdown to Heaven/The Phantom of Baker Street)
Part 5: 『満月の夜と黒い宴の罠』: A Full Moon's Night and Trap at a Black Banquet (volumes 41~50; Crossroad in the Ancient Capital/Magician of the Silver Sky/Strategy Above the Depths)
Part 6: 『探偵甲子園』: Detective Koushien (volumes 51~60; Private Eyes' Requiem/Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure)
Part 7: 『よくあるパターン』: A Common Pattern (volumes 61~70; Full Score of Fear/The Raven Chaser/Lost Ship in the Sky)
(You will find the links to the reviews of volume 70, 72~76, 78, and the films Quarter of Silence, The Eleventh Striker, Private Eye in the Distant Sea in the library)

Volume 82 of Detective Conan was released about a month ago, and starts with Kaitou KID VS Kyougoku Makoto: The Outcome of the Dangerous Bet, which is pretty much what the title says it is. Phantom thief KID has announced to steal another jewel from Suzuki Jiroukichi, who should know better by now. Placing jewels on skyscrapers, on the back of turtles, having children guard it, none of his plans to stop the phantom thief have ever succeeded. The single line of defense this time is Kyougoku Makoto, boyfriend of Jiroukichi's niece and world champion karate. Will the famous thief win, or a man can dodge bullets? These KID vs Jiroukichi stories were fun the first few times, but they seem to pop up way too often lately (wasn't the last one in volume 80 or 81?!). This time the theft is kinda easy to solve (despite the trick also depending on obscure facts nobody is ever going to know), which makes it a forgettable story. Mostly. The one thing that will stick, is the fact that lately Conan characters have become too strong (see also Ran's role in the movie Private Eye in the Distant Sea). Sure, Makoto had always been strong, being able to dodge rifle shots at point blank range (or more precisely, he could dodge the shots, because he was so close), but the feats he performs here... Overall, a disappointing story though.

A Case Beckoning Cat consists of two cases actually, though the official Conan site treats it as one, larger case. The first part of the story is about a stray cat Azusa (of Cafe Poirot) has been taking care of. After the publication of an article on Cafe Poirot, featuring a picture of Azusa and the cat, no less than three persons appear, each claiming the cat is their own. Can Great Detective Mouri Kogorou determine the true owner of the cat? In the second part, the Detective Boys go visit the new owner of the cat, but they discover a nearly dead body in the apartment. An apartment locked from the inside, to be precise. Who attacked the cat's new owner and how did the assailant escape?

There's this phenomena, that if you learn a new word, you suddenly seem to see it everywhere, right? I am not sure whether it also occurs when applying it to your own mother tongue, but it definitely appears often when studying new languages. Its probably just the fact being able to actually recognize and comprehend the word, which makes it seem like it appears more often, but what about tropes and trivia? The first part of A Case Beckoning Cat features a... fact, a trope maybe, that I first learned about about a half year ago in a detective story. Since then, I've seen the exact same fact used in at least three other detective stories in just these six months. And it's not even that interesting a fact! It's not used in a surprising way here or anything like that at all, so to me, it feels like more of the same. It's also an obscure fact, I guess, which again makes the story less interesting to me personally (like the KID story).

The second half of A Case Beckoning Cat on the other hand does not invoke a trope I've seen in other detectives, but in the Conan series itself. A mish-mash of elements of a very early Conan story, and one that appeared somewhere between volume 20~30. Once again a disappointing story overall. The final complete story in volume 82, A Time-Bending Alibi, has the same problem: it's basically the exact same trick like a story in volume 44.  Sure, it's arranged a bit, and the scale is admittedly bigger, but the base is the same, and too obvious from the start.

Volume 82 ends with the beginning of a new story, which seems more interesting than the rest of the volume, but as I don't want to write about unfinished stories...

All in all a very disappointing volume. Which is quite rare for Conan, actually. As there's usually around three stories per volume, there's almost always at least one story I really like, but volume 82 was a real letdown. The previous volumes were quite strong actually, so maybe artist Aoyama Goushou should have played with the order of the stories a bit for a more balanced experience... But I'll keep on reading anyway. Aoyama once said he wanted to wrap up the story before volume 100, and we're definitely nearing the end!

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第82巻

Monday, February 10, 2014

Try Again

I just wanna say 夢かなえる
真実はいつも一つ それは TRY AGAIN
"Try Again" (倉木麻衣)

I just wanna say You can make your dreams come true
There's always only one truth Which is Try Again
"Try Again" (Kuraki Mai) 

It's been a while since the last post. But I'm still here! Just busy with things. And stuff. And other stuff.

Introducing Lawrence Todhunter, age 51. Retired, well off. He lives a quiet, some might say boring life. And he is going to die soon. A fatal heart disease confronts him with the fact he could have done something more meaningful with his life, and he intends to rectify that before he draws his last breath. He makes up his mind to do one last act for the sake of humanity: to exterminate the most harmful element he can find in society. To kill an evil person whose mere existence means a threat to society. He finds his target in Ms. Norwood, actress, and in general not a very kind person indeed. After the deed is done, Todhunter travels around the world, expecting to die during his trip. That is until he discovers that someone else has been arrested for the murder of Ms. Norwood. Hurriedly returning to the country, Todhunter has the strangely difficult task of proving his own guilt to save an innocent soul in Anthony Berkeley's Trial and Error.

Proving one's own guilt might sound strange as a concept, but it makes sense when you hear it's written by Anthony Berkeley, right?

The Poisoned Chocolates Case was an experiment in deduction: six person using six different methods to arrive at six different solutions for the same case. Jumping Jenny is basically a double inverted mystery: we see the events leading up to a murder, and then we have a second crime-in-progress, with the detective Sheringham trying to make it seem the murder was a suicide. Trial and Error (which though featuring a familiar face, is not part of the Roger Sheringham series) in turn plays with the character roles in detective novels: it's the criminal himself who wants to proof his own guilt (and he has surprisingly much trouble with that, despite having secured what he thought was decisive evidence), it's the criminal himself who wants to get himself hanged and it's the criminal himself who gets a trial running to convict himself.

And I love Trial and Error for that. Berkeley clearly loves playing on a meta-level with the detective fiction genre, turning and twisting familar tropes and character types around to mess with the reader. And it's never just a gimmick, because Berkeley can also write and plot like the best, and his novels are always a treat to read. Trial and Error is funny as a concept, but it is also a good detective novel. It's fun seeing Todhunter retracing his own steps on the night of the murder, looking for evidence he might have left, just like a detective. Heck, Todhunter is a detective, and a criminal at the same time i this novel. But the reader might be surprised when it's revealed in the end how many hints were hidden in the story. Berkeley makes use of a lot of gimmicks in his novels, but he's always more than just gimmicks.

In general though, I'm not a big fan of Berkeley's characters though. Of course, I have just read a couple of his novels, so I might have been just unlucky, but Roger Sheringham for example has a knack for behaving too much as the arrogant masterdetective (which he isn't exactly). Jumping Jenny had him messing around with the crime scene for example because he felt he had the right to judge something fair or not. Todhunter playing judge, jury and executioner is not unlike Sheringham actually, but the moral implications of his role aren't really explored. Partly because the victim is depicted as a fairly evil woman, which is something Berkeley excelled in: depicting bad women. There's always a distinct misogynistic tone to be found in his novels, I was told in a presentation on him and his works once, and now I have read more of his works, I have to admit that one can indeed feel it.

Like the other Berkeley novels I've read, Trial and Error is a great novel, which can be read perfectly on its own, but works even better as a piece of meta-fiction. It's also a lot less 'theoretical' than the other two, making it much more suitable for readers who find The Poisoned Chocolates Case a bit hard to get into.