Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Cat Who Sang for the Birds

「Nora」(Garnet Crow)

I can't even tell you farewell,
But even so, I'll leave here today
Will I ever meet a wonderful person again?
Whimsical and free, I'm a stray cat
"Nora" (Garnet Crow)

I've been postponing writing this review for weeks. Which isn't that bad a thing, save for the fact that by finally writing this review, I'm postponing a different review for even longer. At this point, I'm not even sure whether I'm going a review on that book anymore, because it's slowly sinking deeper and deeper away in my memories...

Professor Niccolo Benedetti is usually called in with particularly nasty situations that ask for his expertise on human evil, for example with the horrible serial killings chronicled in The HOG Murders. So Ron Gentry, Benedetti's disciple, was a bit surprised to hear the Maestro accepted the request to help mediate between the two Pembroke twins. The feud between Claude (birdwatcher) and Henry (manx cat breeder) has been going on for decades, but their quabble becomes government business when Claude puts out his veto on manufacturing an air-cleaning device the brothers invented: Claude thinks his brother is responsible for an aviaric disappearance from their grounds. Benedetti thinks evil is behind the flight of the birds and his suspicions soon prove to be right when the mediation session becomes a kidnapping case with a deadly result in William L. DeAndrea's The Manx Murders (1994).

Running a blog on fiction does not mean I can actually read and think: that's why I jumped from The HOG Murders to the third novel in the series, The Manx Murders, even though I already have the second book and I'm pretty sure the correct reading order is mentioned somewhere in the books themselves...

Anyway, The Manx Murders is the third time the public is told about the adventures of Professor Niccolo Benedetti, his disciple Ron Gentry and Gentry's wife in their fight against evil. Evil's Benedetti's lifework mind you, and not detecting, he is sure to tell you, which is why he accepted the job even if it's not as big a case as The HOG Murders. In fact, The Manx Murders feels a bit underwhelming most of the time. Disappearing birds? Dead cats? Even when the stakes get higher when one of the twins is kidnapped and bodies (of the not-so-living anymore kind) start to pop up, it's still nothing compared to the terror we experienced with the unknown serial killer in The HOG Murders. Benedetti still does his paintings thing (he starts off painting realistic paintings when he investigates a case, which turn more surrealistic as the investigation continues, turning into subconcious hints), Ron and his wife still have their banter and stuff, but it's like they're stuck in the wrong story, because The Manx Murders is just not a story that would need these characters.

The Manx Murders has a very limited setting, both in terms of cast and location and while that is not a bad thing per se, I wouldn't say these elements were done exceptionally well in The Manx Murders. The length of the book does not allow much room for exciting plot developments or interesting confrontations between characters. Personally, I think the mystery plot would've worked better as a shorter story (with a few trimmings), as the current length of The Manx Murders just isn't optimal: either a longer, or shorter length would've resulted in a better-flowing story, in my opinion.

I lean towards the shorter version because the puzzle plot is a bit simple this time. The murderer is incredibly obvious (especially after the second thing) and while the clue leading to the identity of the murderer is fair and good enough, it's not nearly enough to sustain a whole novel-length story. It'd worked much better in a different type of story I think (I especially think this idea would've fitted perfectly in a Columbo episode, for example).

The Manx Murders is not a bad mystery story. But I do think it'd be a lot better in a different form and maybe even if moved outside the Professor Benedetti series. Ah well, I still have to read The Werewolf Murders, which apparently is a lot closer to The HOG Murders in terms of set-up, so that should be fun.


  1. which novel of Ranpo is this one supposed to be ?

    1. I can't read Spanish (?), but based on the names I see in the description, I'm going to guess Kotou no Oni.

    2. thanks

      are you going to make a review of Gakkyu Hotei ?

    3. No. I read the first volume two months ago, but I thought it was a very uninspired series, that did too little to set itself apart from its obvious inspirations (Ace Attorney, Danganronpa and a touch of Furuhata Ninzaburou). Considering it was killed off rather quickly in Japan, I really have no intention of ever revisiting the series again.

    4. Will we see your thoughts on the newest entry to the Ace Attorney series, Gyakuten Saiban 6?