Monday, May 11, 2015

Seven Days A Week

Hello Mr. my yesterday 云っておくれよ 
「Hello Mr. my yesterday」(Hundred Percent Free)

Hello Mr. my yesterday, please say to me:
"We'll meet again the moment your dream comes true"
 "Hello Mr. my yesterday" (Hundred Percent Free)

Some Japanese pockets feature some great cover art, but there are also the 'artsy' ones I almost never understand, or like (like this one). Todays cover is not horrible and I get the weekday references, but still... what is it?!

The death of mystery writer Raiki Raito left behind quite some questions. He may have died in his own study (locked from the inside), but was it really suicide? What about the rumours of him having been working on a new book the year before his death? And most important, what did he mean when he claimed to have discovered "the ultimate trick"? These questions also fly around in the heads of the participants of a monitoring panel for a hotel event: the hotel owns Raiki's house, the Mystery Mansion, and is planning to use it as the stage of a murder mystery event and has invited several people to try out their game. A magnificent reward awaits the winner: the location of Raiki's "ultimate trick". Among the participants are Ishizaki Kouji, our protagonist and mystery fan, and the two high school students Miria and Yuri, who were invited as representatives of a high school mystery club (little did the hotel know that the club is a fake club, only set-up to receive financial benefits for club activities from school). Can these three solve the murder mystery event and figure out what Raiki Raito's secret was in Ishizaki Kouji's Nichiyoubi no Chinmoku ("Sunday Silence", 2000)

This book was the debut novel of Ishizaki Kouji and the winner of the 18th Mephisto Prize (for more about the award and the type of novels that win, see this post). As with a lot of the Mephisto Prize winners, this is a fairly meta-conciousness novel; mystery writers killed in locked rooms, the "ultimate trick" (reminiscent of the ultimate locked room trick in Arisugawa Alice's 46 Banme no Misshitsu) and this time, a very literal game-approach to the mystery, as most of the story is about the murder game organized by the hotel. And of course, be ready for countless of references to other mystery novels (a great number of them also originating as Mephisto Prizes).

This is a very lighthearted mystery. This is because of both the characters and the plot. To begin with the characters: the real detectives in this story are Miria and Yuri who act most of the time as stereotypical high school students who just wanna have some fun and like to make fun of everyone and everything. Heck, they only accepted the invitation for the event because of the free stay and food, not because they have an interest in detective fiction. Ishizaki Kouji (the character in the story, not the actual writer) is usually the victim of Miria and Yuri's jokes and this atmosphere of joking and teasing stays from start to finish. Miria and Yuri are also written extremely alike and there's almost seems there's no reason for them to be two different characters, though they have been split into two as to avoid the romantic implications of a thirty-ish Ishizaki Kouji and one high school student hanging out together for three days in a hotel.

But they also turn out to be a bit more intelligent than seems at first and they have a great hand in solving the mystery event, as well as figuring out the secret behind Raiki Raito's death. For most part, the mystery consists of a missing link story, where the participants of the event have to figure out what the (staged) murders are hinting at. This is solved at about two-thirds of the novel, leaving the rest for solving the secret of Raiko Raito and the 'ultimate trick'. 'Both' plots are... not bad per se, but a bit light... The first plotline is a fairly doable missing link story and actually has several layers of solutions to it, making it quite enjoyable (some solutions are kinda silly, but there's a perfectly good explanation for them). But the second missing link plotline is almost impossible to solve because it's so farfetched, making it not fun at all. Also, the secret of the 'ultimate trick' is kinda disappointing for something ultimate, making the last third of the novel not nearly as entertaining as the first two thirds (the two parts also feel a bit distinct, instead of feeling like one whole story).

Overall, Nichiyoubi no Chinmoku is entertaining enough, but it's not nearly enough to really fill one's stomach. It needed a bit more impact to really make an impression. Miria and Yuri are fun though and I gather that Miria, Yuri and author-avatar Ishizaki Kouji return in other stories too, so I might try those some time.

Original Japanese title(s):  石崎幸二『日曜日の沈黙』

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