Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Revelations of a Lady Detective

"Rationality, that was it. No esoteric mumbo jumbo could fool that fellow. Lord, no! His two feet were planted solidly on God's good earth"
"The Lamp of God"

I'm not writing this review a year after I read it, but by the time this review is posted, it's definitely been more than a year!

The St. Arisugawa Girls' Academy is a mission school run by the Vatican in Japan. No technically, the school isn't even in Japan, for the three inter-connected artificial islands near Aichi are owned by the Vatican and people do have to show their passports when to enter or leave the islands. The academy is a prestigious school not only due to its special background, but also because it is unique as a secondary school focusing on the art of detection. The detective is a protected, and very important job in today's society and requires certain qualifications.  In Japan, you usually start studying to become a detective starting at the college level and can afterwards obtain the necessary qualifications, but the St. Arisugawa Girls' Academy already teaches its girl students to become a detective at the secondary level. 

Kyouko, Mizuki and Marii are all second year students who thus still have a year to go, but Miho and Nobuko, as third year students, have been in a fierce competition for forever to become the highest ranking student upon graduation. Graduating as the top student isn't just to show off, but has practical perks allowing you to become a detective earlier than usual, so both contenders have been aiming for the top, but it is clear Miho will end up highest. However, as the current number 1 and 2 on the rankings, the two of them are allowed to participate in a special test, that will also be reflected in their ranking, so both Miho and Nobuko participate. This winter test involves the twin bell towers of St. Arisugawa Girl's Academy, about seventy metres high. Miho and Nobuko are each brought to one of the towers, to a special room near the top. There they are locked inside, and are told that the one to win this test, is the one who will "approach the Lord the closest." Kyouko is asked to be a witness to the test: from the main building, she's to make sure both Miho and Nobuko will use their flashlight from their respective rooms to signal back to the main building to show they are willing to proceed with the test. The following morning however, a horrible sight is discovered: Miho and Nobuko are both hanging from the crosses on the top of the twin bell towers, and for some reason, Miho is completely naked. But what is equally enigmatic is the fact the two girls have 'switched places': Miho is crucified on the tower where Nobuko was staying, and the reverse holds for Nobuko. Kyouko, Mizuki and Marii are determined to find out what happened to Miho and Nobuko, and while none of them can solve this on their own, they are certainly capable of working together and combine their powers in Furuno Mahoro's Sailor-Fuku to Mokushiroku ("Sailor Uniforms and the Apocolypse", 2012).

First time I ever read anything by Furuno. I think it was the cover, combined with the title that first attracted me, as it suggested kind of Gothic horror novel with some Biblical Apocalypse themes which seemed interesting, but perhaps I should have done a bit more research. For allow me to say this right from the start: this is just part of a larger story, and as a book on its own, Sailor-Fuku to Mokushiroku feels quite uneven and incomplete. The first half of this book is in fact just world-building, explaining about the school, about its ties to the Vatican, about the role of detectives in this world, followed by a slice-of-life-esque section focusing on our protagonists as they experience their daily school life on the island at this unique school. If you're mainly reading this for the mystery, you have to be prepared for a very slow beginning that isn't immediately connected to the main mystery and what is even worse, a lot regarding the mystery isn't even explained in this book. Yes, we identify a murderer and know how they did it and why, or at least, we learn the "direct" reason for the murders, but we don't really understand why, and the book ends with a foreshadowing segment that hints at more adventures for our three heroines and suggesting we'll understand more about these specific murders as we learn more about St. Arisugawa Girls' Academy in subsequent books, but reading this on its own is not very satisfying, as you really feel like you only read the first part of a larger story and are missing things you should know. There are hints about how the Vatican is doing *something* at St. Arisugawa Girls' Academy, but we don't get much beyond the 'hinting' so the book leaves you with a rather unsatisfied feeling.

So the impossible crime of the two students leaving their locked rooms, swapping towers and ending up crucified on the crosses on top of other's tower only makes up for about half of the book and to be more exact, the set-up of this unique and alluring situation is in fact just a very, very small part of the complete book, because soon after we learn about this situation, we're already moving towards the solving of this mystery, though in a way that is quite interesting. For Kyouko, Mizuki and Marii all turn out to specialize in very different aspects of a crime: Kyouko focuses on the whodunit, Mizuki on the howdunnit and Marii on the whydunnit. What is even more unique is that at least in this book, the three aren't really working together to solve the crime, but they decide to look at the impossible murder from their own angles in three seperate groups (each of them finding a different ally to discuss the case with), so we get three seperate "solution" chapters where each of the three girls approaches the problem from a very different angle, but interestingly enough, the three of them do all end up implicating the same person. These three chapters, titled Scuderia Motivo, Scuderia Metodo and Scuderia Criminale make up most of the second half of the book and are surprisingly robust examinations of the impossible crime from their respective angles. Marii's whydunnit for example has a mini-motive-lecture, while Kyouko's whodunnit chapter has her listing all the viable suspects and examining one by one who could be responsible or not. But because the book moves very quickly from the "presentation" of the murders to the three chapters of Whodunnit, Howdunnit and Whydunnit, the reader isn't given much time to think about the case themselves, so the focus seems to lie more on watching the three detectives do their work, rather than really challenging the reader to solve it.

On the whole, I'm a bit torn on the solution to the otherwise awesome-sounding mystery. There are parts of the solution and mystery I find really interesting, and other parts feeling very underwhelming, like for example the victims having to act like complete idiots for this to even remotely work, even though they are the top-ranking students of their year! The howdunnit behind the mystery of the victims swapping towers for example is rather disappointing, with a solution that is so practical it takes away all the allure of the original mystery and the clewing for that part isn't that great. The way the Howdunnit and Whodunnit chapters slowly focus in on the (correct) motive and suspect is good, though it at times relies on a few shortcuts and taking a few things for granted that could've been debated more. I think that ultimately, the idea behind why this crime was committed and regarding some elements, how this was done can be quite interesting, and it certainly piques your interest to how the story will develop in later volumes, but the way it is done in this book, I can't help but feeling compelled to add a "but" after starting with "it has some good ideas, but....". 

So I'm torn on Sailor-Fuku to Mokushiroku. There are elements I like about it, like the Vatican conspiracy-angle which somehow involves the Apocalypse and a girls' academy in Japan that originally made me curious about the series, and the idea of having the three heroines each focusing on different aspects of a crime, that still allows them to arrive at the same answer is pretty awesome. The miraculous murder of the two victims somehow swapping towers and being crucified on top of them also has interesting points, which ties back to the way the mystery is solved in three different ways, but as a whole, there are just too many elements of the mystery I don't think work really well, or feel a bit too forced to be convincing.  I believe this series is now four volumes long, and there's a fifth volume that acts as a crossover with another Furuno series, but I am still not sure whether I'll read more of it. If the following books can skip on setting up the world like this first volume did and go straightforward to the adventures of Kyouko, Mizuki and Marii, then this could become something more interesting.

Original Japanese title(s): 古野まほろ『セーラー服と黙示録』

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Telltale Face

The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed “Off with her head! Off—” 
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

Here's your semi-regular "hey, there's a Honkaku Discord server" message!

Oh, so I read this book 14 months before writing this review...

The Uegemis were once a wealthy family of merchants living on their own private island near Yokohama, but they had lost much of their fortune by the Meiji period. The elderly Kazuichou realizes how his own son Kazui had no talent for business, which worsened after the death of Kazui's wife as his attention turned to drinking and smoking. Worried about the future of the Uegami clan, Kazuichirou decided to marry a younger new wife Reika, but before a second child could be conceived, the man died. His will however stipulates it won't be opened until two years after his death. And so the widow Reika, her 'son' Kazui and Kazui's daughter Karen lives "happily" together on the island while waiting these two years, remaining polite to each other until they know who will inherit the Uegami money. After a long period of illness, Karen lost a lot of her memories, and is now recovering. A powerful related family sends the housekeeper Shizuka, a Mary Poppins-esque super competent, but somewhat cold woman of Russian descent, to the house to care for Karen, but also to keep an eye on things to see what will happen to the Uegamis. Another guest at the house is Gorou, Karen's cousin. Karen still has trouble remembering things, but she feels something is amiss in the house and suspects her family is hiding something from her. Her suspicions are aimed at the courtyard of the house, a large open space to which the door is always kept locked, and where something is being kept. One evening, widow Reika is late for dinner even though they are to have dinner together. She's often late though, so at first nobody thinks too much about it, but when they try to call for her, they find her door locked and no reply coming from inside. Breaking the door open, they find her decapitated body. For some reason however, Kazui seems very reluctant to call the police. But when more victims fall who also lose their heads, Shizuka acts to protect her mistress, and she's willing to go far to accomplish that in Tsukihara Wataru's Kubinashiyakata no Satsujin ("The Murders in the House of the Headless", 2018).

Kubinashiyakata no Satsujin is the second book in the Maid Detective Shizuka series, but the third time I'm discussing this series because I don't read things in order. The stories are set in the Meiji period and feature Shizuka as the series detective: a mysterious woman of Russian descent who seems to be a cold, but efficient and effective housekeeper, but who can have a rather sharp tongue when pushed and she's in possession of an even sharper mind. She works for a different family in each story, so you can basically start with any book, as there's not really a chronology or direct connections between stories. What is interesting about these books is that they are quite short, but each of them focus on very specific themes, like the mitate satsujin (murders patterned after something, like nursery rhymes) in the first book, or locked rooms/impossible crimes in the third. Each of these books approached these themes from both a "straightforward" angle, as well as a more meta-angle, like in the first book Shizuka planning to destroy all the paintings all the murders there were mirroring, because then the murderer had nothing to mirror.

The headless corpse is of course a very common trope in mystery fiction, and if you have two or three of them, you of course start asking the usual questions like "Does the body really belong to the believed victim, as there's no face to verify?" But as this book is titled after the trope, and considering other books in this series have approached familiar mystery themes from a meta-angle, I wasn't too worried about this aspect, as I was sure Tsukihara would still manage to present an interesting twist to it. Mind you, I don't think the two books by Tsukihara I read previously were perfect in their execution, sometimes with some dodgy tricks, but at the very least, each of the books gave me food for thought as they tackled the familar tropes in interesting ways, so yeah, I can forgive them for stumbling a bitand in general, I still think they can be fun reads.

In a way, Kubinashiyakata no Satsujin is quite similar to the previous two books I read and as I'm writing this review some time after I read it, I do have to admit I had to check a few times because some scenes are just so similar and I wasn't sure in what book they occured. This book is perhaps the best at the horror aspect though. You follow Karen awakening with partial loss of memory and slowly sees her suspecting her family is keeping something secret from her, and while we the reader know Shizuka is the detective, it does feel like those Gothic horror novels where you can't trust anybody, especially as this is set in an old house on a private island. The one big question is of course the courtyard: the house itself consists of four wings, connected to each other with corridors so you have a large square courtyard in the middle, but only one door in the North Wing leads into the courtyard and it's usually kept locked. At the centre of the courtyard is a mysterious building with seemingly no exits, and of course, you can guess this place will play a big role in the mystery. It's a shame the book is pretty unclear when it comes to the actual floorplan of this building, and a diagram would've helped so much in solving this mystery, for some elements of the mystery can only be solved if you happened to remember the textual description of where the rooms are etc., even though a proper diagram would've helped so much. Now I think about it, the third novel was also a bit vague in explaining the floorplan of the building there, so that was an issue Tsukihara didn't improve upon. Nonetheless, the house itself is pretty creepy, and this book is perhaps the best at atmosphere of the ones I've read.

But the big theme of the book is of course decapitations, and fun things are done here! Shizuka of course immediately ponders about the question the moment they find the decapitated body of Reika, and even challenges the murderer to show them the victim's head, or else she's not going to believe the body is Reika's. Shizuka does more of these meta-attacks on the murderer, like threatening to injure everyone's faces so they don't have faces anymore, meaning there'd be no reason to decapitate any victims anymore if the reason is to obscure their identity. I love these pro-active suggestions Shizuka makes to counter these familiar mystery tropes and that's what makes these books worth a read. Shizuka is the type of detective you either like or don't, I think, as she can be cooooold, but I really love how she's always willing to do the drastic to mess up the murderer's intentions. And yep, the fun part is seeing how the murderer reacts to Shizuka's challenges of course, and ultimately, we are actually presented with an interesting explanation why the murderer in this book is decapitating their victims, and it's pretty surprising one! It was not at all what I had expected, so it wins points there, and while the idea itself is actually one of the more "logical" ones, it's the application to this particular story that works really well for me.

In fact, I think that of the three Shizuka novels I've read now, I enjoyed Kubinashiyakata no Satsujin the best overall. It is a smooth read due to the Gothic horror-esque approach with an amnestic narrator and while the tricks in this book are less "grand" compared to for example the next book, I find it's a more balanced story, improving a bit on the very hasty first book and not being as crammed as the third book. Given the books are not really connected strongly to each other, one could decide to start with this one first. One thing though, I still don't really understand the Meiji period setting and Yokohama specifically, as each of these books feature closed circle situations somewhere outside Yokohama, so you very seldom actually get a sense of time beyond "sure, they don't have phones yet". I hope later books do more with the time period.

Original Japanese title(s): 月原渉『首無館の殺人』

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Thicker Than Water

"Red... White... Blue..."
"Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney"

Chin Shunshin was a Taiwanese-Japanese novelist who was born in Kobe, Japan in 1924 and moved to his family's home country of Taiwan after World War II. While he later became a citizen of mainland China, he became a full Japanese national following his criticism regarding the Tiananmen Square deaths. Due to his unique background, he has worked as both a translator and novelist, and many of his novels, both mystery and historical, deal with Chinese or Asian history. He wrote many novels in Japanese, and won several awards with his mystery novels like Edogawa Rampo Award and the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, as well as "general" literature awards like the Naoki Prize and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize. The man lived a long life by the way, passing away as recent as 2015, but an English translation of 1976 novel Murder in a Peking Studio was released in 1986, but I don't think that many of his works have been translated in general, certainly not his mystery output.

Sanshoku no Ie ("The Tri-Color Building") is a 1962 novel which, if Chin Shunshin Japanese Wikipedia page is complete, should be his second mystery novel. The book starts in 1933, when Tao Zhanwen, a Chinese international student studying law in Japan (who also starred in Chin's debut novel), receives a letter from his former roommate Qiao Shixiu, who some time back moved back to Kobe to his father's marine produce factory and shop. In the letter, Shixiu pleads with Tao Zhanwhen to visit him before he'll return to China, because he's facing a dilemma. His father recently passed away making him the owner of the Tongshuntai Company, but before his father passed away, he took in a young man who was supposed to be Shixiu and his younger sister's older brother. According to his father, he actually had a wife and son whom he left behind when he crossed the sea to Japan, and for some reason, he has welcomed this son to Japan now. Shixiu's 'older brother' of course remained "home" even after their father died, but Shixiu has severe doubts about this man's identity, as his father told him his brother should've grown up in the countryside on a small farm, but from time to time he notices this man isn't the simpleton he pretends to be. And to Shixiu's frustration, he notices his younger sister is quite fond of their new brother. Shixiu wants Tao Zhanwhen, a gifted amateur detective, to visit him in Kobe not only to say farewell before Zhanwhen returns to China, but to figure out whether this man is really his brother. Tao Zhanwhen accepts his friend's invitation to stay for some time at the Tongshuntai Company: a three-storey building with brick walls in different three colors, giving it the name of the Tri-Color Building. The two upper floors are occupied by the living quarters of the Qiao family and the office spaces, but the ground floor is occupied by the marine produce shop and there are also warehouses and open spaces nearby to sun-dry and pack their marine produce to ship away. The neighbours are also marine-related factories and workplaces run by people from Chinese origin, making this a small Chinese part near the Kobe shore, and the various factories/workplaces all share a common backyard.

While Tao Zhanwhen starts familiarizing himself with the family, the employees at the Tongshuntai Company and the neighbors, the head cook of the the Tongshuntai Company goes out on the large rooftop terrace on the third floor (= rooftop of the wider second floor) of the head building, which is usually used to sun-dry all kinds of marine produce. The man was the confidante of Shixiu's father, having been with him since the very beginning, and every day, he loafes around on the terrace or takes a nap there as he only needs to start his work around dusk. During the time the cook's hanging out on the rooftop terrace Tao Zhanwhen and other people hear some noise coming from above, but they don't think much of it, but when later a help goes up to call the cook down, he finds the cook murdered on the rooftop terrace However, as the police investigation develops, it seems there were people hanging around the two entrances to the terrace around the time of the murder, being the door leading back to the third floor into the main bullding, as well as a ladder leading from the rooftop down to the shared backyard, where people had been working. So how did the murderer enter and leave the crime scene unseen? And why was the cook killed and has this something to do with Shixiu's brother?

Yes, there's basically a locked room murder situation here, as the cook was found dead at a spot where witnesses happened to be near the two entrances (exits) of the rooftop terrace. While this is definitely the main mystery of the book, there are other minor mysteries that play a role, like of course the matter of who the brother of Shixiu really is, and there's also some mystery regarding the cook's history with Shixiu's father from before they made it to Japan. Yet, I'd say that as a mystery novel, I wouldn't say Sanshoku no Ie is a must-read. Ultimately, the locked room mystery is a rather recognizable variation on ideas you'll have seen with other authors, even if you hardly read mystery, because there are some really well-known mainstream mystery authors who have used basically the same idea. I wouldn't say Chin Shunshin uses the idea better or worse, but it is very likely you'll have come across the same concept somewhere long before you ever thought of reading Sanshoku no Ie and I myself kinda feared from the start it would go a certain way once the main impossible situation was presented, and unfortunately, my "I hope it's not that because that's a very commonplace trick' ended up as the right one. Perhaps the less cerebral mysteries regarding the brother and the history of the cook and father may be interesting to some, but those parts of the story are more played from a suspense angle.

So is there nothing interesting about Sanshoku no Ie? Well, that's not the case. I do have to admit that the setting was quite unique. As mentioned above, Chin Shunshin himself was born in Kobe, explaining why this book was set in that harbor city, and of course, this whole book is about the Chinese immigrant community in Kobe. And that is quite unique. You'll probably not very often read (Japanese) mystery novels set in Japan, but with a minority as the main cast and as Chin Shunchin grew up in such an environment, you can sense his own experiences growing up in Japan with a non-Japanese background, and these minorities sticking together a lot, like having all these Chinese workshops and factories together and everything helping each other out. I had to think of Ayukawa Tetsuya's debut novel Petrov Jiken (disclosure: I translated Ayukawa's short story collection The Red Locked Room.) because that was set in Dalian in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, a place that doesn't exist anymore, but which did serve as a really unique backdrop for a mystery story.  This book is defnitely about the Chinese community in Kobe, focusing a lot on the character's backgrounds (like how and why they ended up in Japan) and of course how their culture works within the context of the Japanese society they are living in.

So yeah, I'm not super enthusiastic about Sanshoku no Ie. If you're interested in this book because you heard it features a locked room murder mystery, it'd be best to temper those expectations. The book is quite short, and as I mentioned above, the focus on the Chinese immigrant community in a pre-war Japanese society does result in a unique setting and if you're interested in that, the book is certainly worth a read, but don't be too focused on this book on its mystery merits alone. I have a copy of Murder in a Peking Studio too, but I'll probably save that for whenever when I'm the right mood.

Original Japanese title(s): 陳舜臣『三色の家』

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Missing a Body?

"Street Fighter II"

I don't know much about sumo, but I remember one time in Fukuoka when there was going to be one of those big annual sumo events there and it became noticably crowdier...

Sometimes you can tell what must've been a driving force in writing a certain work. For example, when a locked room murder trick is so ridiculous and over-the-top, you just know the idea must've come first to the author, and they decided to write it down as a story to have it published. Or an author developed an interest in a certain topic, like a specific period in history, or a certain profession, and decides to write a mystery novel set in that time or setting. Komori Kentarou's Oozumo Satsujin Jiken ("The Grand Sumo Murders") is a 2008 short story collection with interconnected stories, and I can almost imagine how Komori would have been chuckling to himself while writing this novel, as it's basically a parody of the mystery novel, and of sumo wrestling. It makes fun of both mystery fiction and sumo from start to finish, and while I'm sure he likes both topics, he also sure likes to tease the two themes very much and the result is a book that is a bit hard to recommend to "serious" mystery fans, because none of this is really meant to be serious and some of the stories and murder tricks employed here are beyond nonsensical, but it's a short, and often funny read. The opening story introduces us to Mark Hideaway, an American young man who one day appears in Tokyo hoping to enroll in a Japanese university to learn about Japanese culture. But because he doesn't actually know much Japanese, he ends up enrolling into the Chiyoraku sumo wrestling stable by accident (thinking it's a university). While eventually, the misunderstanding is cleared, Mark remains at the small, but famous stable with a long history, because he is actually built for the sport and because he's late for the actual university enrollment period anyway, so he might as well earn some money while waiting for the next period. Satoko, the teenage daughter of the master of the stable, is the only one in the stable who can speak "some" English, so she's appointed as his interpreter for the time being, but Mark's arrival at the Chiyoraku stable is the start of bloody period in the history of sumo wrestling, with sumo wrestlers exploding in the ring, wrestlers being decapitated and cut up in pieces and even an insane serial murder case with over a dozen of sumo wrestlers killed.

While the base idea of an American joining a sumo wrestling stable and him ending up solving cases with a teenager as his sidekick could easily have been used for a "serious" book, it is obvious Oozumo Satsujin Jiken is written as a parody, starting with Mark's very loose Japanese and English leading to him joining the Chiyoraku stable, and then absolutely ridiculous murders occuring from that point on. The first story for example literally has two sumo wrestlers who have an important match explode on live television, one of them belonging to the Chiyoraku stable. The solution is very straightforward and thus it doesn't really make an impact as a mystery story on its own, but the idea of people just suddenly exploding in a sumo ring is just so outrageous, I'm sure at least the set-up of this story will be remembered by many. And I think that is the case for most of the six stories in this book: as mystery stories they are very simple and the solutions often feel very absurd, but the most of them have somewhat memorable set-ups. There's a lot of information on sumo wrestling and the workings of a sumo stable to be learned between the lines which can be interesting, but this book is definitely a parody first, so it should not ever be taken too seriously.

Because these stories just tend to be so short and also not really meant to be super original mystery stories, but more about making fun of the weird premise and just coming up with more and more ways to kill sumo wrestlers, I won't write in length about all the stories included in this collection, as a lot of them feel the same, but to highlight a few: the second story revolves around the discovery of a decapitated wrestler in the bath room of the Chiyoraku stable, with the wrestler who was keeping the fire going for the bath being pointed at as the obvious suspect, as the crime would've been impossible for the others. The solution is one you probably have seen in some form or another elsewhere, though I guess that of all the stories in this book, at least the motive was kinda understandable... Which is less the case with the third story, which is when Mark is starting to get a good series of wins going as Makunotora, but not because of his own doing. For some reason, the wrestlers he's going to fight in the ring all get killed, giving him an automatic win and allowing him to rise in the rankings. Which of course makes him a suspect. The story is absolutely nuts, with Mark's reaction about his scheduled opponents getting killed off in different manners just "Oh, so I am the winner?" and a motive that comes out of nowhere, but I guess it's that crazy set-up that makes this one memorable. There are also stories inspired by Shimada's debut novel The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, involving an "Azoth" of sumo wrestler parts and another inspired by Kokushikan Satsujin Jiken, but these are all more about the shocking and weird story set-ups and of course many dead wrestlers, rather than about really presenting original mystery takes.

The fourth story, The Locked Room Forbidden for Women is the story that actually first made me aware of this novel. In 2018, there was a real-world incident when a mayor making a speech on the sumo ring suddenly collapsed, and one of the people rushing to administer first aid to the man was a female doctor. The sumo judge however sent the doctor and other people wanting to help away, as women are considered "ritually unclean" to enter the "female" sumo ring, which understandably caused quite a commotion. It was during this commotion I happened to spot people referencing The Locked Room Forbidden for Women from this book. Satoko and a younger wrestler in her father's stable are visiting a newly built stadium with a sumo ring for 'reconnaissance' and run into the female governor debating with other women about the outdated, discriminatory stance regarding women in sumo, not even being allowed to stand in the ring. Later, a sumo judge is found murdered in the middle of the sumo ring in the stadium, which... is somehow a locked room murder, because the three female suspects aren't allowed to enter the ring according to the beliefs, meaning none of them "could" have entered this locked space. The idea of a psychological locked room (as in, it's physically possible to enter/leave but there are psychological/moral/societal limitations) is one that really appeals to me, and knowing they actually send female doctors away from the ring trying to save a man's life in real-life does make it an interesting problem. While the motive is strangely serious compared to most of the other stories, it's still a story that is more memorable based on its set-up rather than the actual solution.

On the whole though, I think Oozumo Satsujin Jiken is a book that is hard to recommend. If you're in the mood, it can be a funny parody of sumo wrestling using a mystery novel's structure, but the comedy is incredibly over the top and often involves... well, sumo wrestlers die left and right, so it's definitely not the book to pick up if you're looking for a logical puzzle-type of story. The stories all have memorable set-ups, but the solutions are never really truly surprising as they often end up variations of ideas you are likely to have seen elsewhere, or just going for a very straightforward explanation and while the book does portray an interesting world of sumo wrestlers and their stables, the parody style kinda undermines it too. So if you're in the mood for a really ridiculous, grotesque parody of the mystery novel and sumo wrestlers, this is the one you want to read and I have to admit, I read it between two "more serious" books so it worked perfectly as a change of breath for me, but I think that if you're not in the mood for this, you're really not going to like this.

Original Japanese title(s): 小森健太郎『大相撲殺人事件』