Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Apeman's Secret


"My left hand which resurrects the just is the left hand of god, my right hand which destroys the evil is the right hand of the devil. Be gone!"
"The Left Hand of God, The Right Hand of the Devil"

It's been a while since I last discussed an audio drama!

Writer Alice series (audio drama)
46 Banme no Misshitsu ("The 46th Locked Room")
Swiss Dokei no Nazo ("The Swiss Clock Mystery")
Yaneura no Sanposha ("The Stroller in the Attic")
Zekkyoujou Satsujin Jiken ("-The Castle of Screams- Murder Case")
Nagai Rouka ga Aru Ie ("The House With the Long Hallway")
Saru no Hidarite ("The Monkey's Left Paw") 

What at first appeared to be just a deadly accident of a man crashing into the sea with his car, soon turns into suspected murder, when the police discovers a fair amount of sleeping medicine in the victim's body. Criminologist Himura Hideo and his friend (and mystery writer) Arisugawa Alice once again join the police investigation as part of Himura's "fieldwork". The police finds out that the victim had debts and soon decides on three suspects: his wife (who has financial gains through the life insurance), a friend of his wife from whom he had borrowed a lot of money (the life insurance money would mean she would be paid back) and that woman's adopted son (who is living off his mother). Yet none of them appeared to have been able to commit the spectacular murder of driving off a car into the sea and swimming back for several reasons, including alibi and being handicapped. Other elements like hypnosis and a mystical mummified monkey's paw which can fulfill wishes also turn the case into at least a two-pipe problem in the audio drama Saru no Hidarite ("The Monkey's Left Paw").

Saru no Hidarite is the sixth entry in Momogre's adaptations of Arisugawa Alice's Writer Alice series and is based on the novel Kisaki wa Fune wo Shizumeru ("The Queen Sinks the Boat", 2010). I think it's the first time since the very first audio drama (46 Banme no Misshitsu) that they did an adaptation of a full-fledged novel (subsequent adaptations were based on short stories and novelettes). I haven't read the original novel though, but a quick look at a summary makes me suspect the structure of the original story was changed a bit to fit the audio drama format and length.

As a detective story, I quite liked Saru no Hidarite. Unlike the always excellent Student Alice series, the Writer Alice series isn't always as complex or amusing as I want it to be, but I thought this was a very entertaining story (see this post for the link between the Writer Alice and Student Alice series). While the actual murder and all is quite boring, I loved that even though you're presented an obvious one-of-the-three-suspects plot, it keeps moving your attention from one suspect to another in a not-too-forced manner. Also, the story has very strongly links to W.W. Jacobs' short story The Monkey's Paw (1902): the way the story serves as a hint to the conundrum Himura and Alice are struggling with is brilliant, as is Himura's interpretation of the classic. Definitely one of the best detective stories I've read (heard) that reference other stories both in theme and in contents.

Like I said before, I suspect the story was slightly rearranged to fit the audio drama format (because the cover text of the book is hardly the way you'd describe the way it goes in the audio drama), and it works fairly well as it is now. Once again though, the story isn't really one that particularly gains from being presented as an audio drama: the story has no particular links to voice or sounds. I really wonder how they decide on which story they adapt.

Then again, I do have to say that this is definitely a story that works well as an audio drama. Locked rooms don't always work as well if it's all just audio, unless you can shift the focus from solving a mechnical locked room to something else (which is why I prefer the audio drama of Nagai Rouka ga Aru Ie to 46 Banme no Misshitsu). And while the story has nothing to do with voice and sounds, I do have to say that it does manage to do something quite well because it's an audio drama, but I will not go in details because of I might spoil the fun.

Retailer Mandarake also offered an extra audio drama together with Saru no Hidarite. Tenkuu no Me is based on the same-titled short story in the short story collection Nagai Rouka ga Aru Ie (of which the title story was also adapted as an audio drama). It is a short story about Alice, who is asked by his neighbour for some advice. His neigbour is a teacher and one of her students has apparently taken a spirit photograph (with a ghost on it). One of her fellow students who took a look at the photo recently turned up dead due to a freak accident, falling of an old abandoned house. The solution is a bit disappointing, as it one of those stories where Arisugawa Alice (the writer, not the character) relies on random trivia and vague clueing. The one interesting point though is that Himura doesn't appear in the story; it's Alice who does all the sleuthing.

Saru no Hidarite was a good audio drama of a good detective story. The audio dramas of the Writer Alice series are always of high quality and this one is no different, but the story itself is also one of the better ones they've done now. The bonus track is a bit disappointing, but the main course is definitely worth a listen.

And for your convenience, the reviews of Writer Alice novels on this blog:
46 Banme no Misshitsu ("The 46th Locked Room") (1992)
Dali no Mayu ("Dali's Cocoon") (1993)
Russia Koucha no Nazo ("The Russian Tea Mystery") (1994)
Sweden Kan no Nazo ("The Swedish Mansion Mystery") (1995)
Brazil Chou no Nazo ("The Brazilian Butterfly Mystery") (1996)
Eikoku Teien no Nazo ("The English Garden Mystery") (1997)
Malay Tetsudou no Nazo ("The Malay Railroad Mystery") (2002)

Original Japanese title(s):  モモグレ、有栖川有栖(原)『猿の左手』

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