Tuesday, March 16, 2010


1987 a murder happened in the property of the Mallarmé-fascinated retired professor Zuimon Ryuuhshirou. At that time among others the great detective Mizuki Masaomi and his assistant Ayui Ikusuke were guests of Zuimon. Of course Mizuki solved the case brilliantly and Ayui created a new novel in his series depiciting Mizukis astonishing achievements. However this work was never collected as a tankoubon volume and remained unfinished in magazine form...
2001 the self-proclaimed great detective Isurugi Gisaku is called on by the editor of a publishing company. He wants to have the case investigated once more, finding it suspicious that this work has not been finished in 14 years. Might there actually be a mistake in Mizuki's deduction...?

I dare to say I think this is interesting for anyone interested in the genre. Not only is the case itself fairly orthodox but the structure and style of the whole book was just as interesting. While being a parody/homage on/to the genre in general and apparently Ayatsuji's yakata-series in particular, Shunou Masayuki manages to write it in a way that it still counts as an orthodox mystery. It shows that he surely is a huge SF and Mystery fan himself and while being able to criticize the genre he also reminds the reader all the time that even taking all those peculiar points of the genre into account he still loves it. This resulted in me grinning fairly often during the reading process while certainly still being able to take this book serious and as an appreciable entry for the genre.

Shunou (like many other authors) does like to throw chunks of vast knowledge at the reader, so if you are not versed in European (especially french) literature and art and also Greek mythology be prepared to look some things up on the net if you are one of those persons (like me) who mostly cannot advance without knowing what that stuff right now was all about. It is not essential to understand the story but it certainly enriches it. OK and the solution or at least the deduction of the motive of the case was quite quirky in a classical way where the reader is most likely unable to come up with that idea himself but I found it to be quite classy and it certainly fitted the setting and atmosphere and as always it is not like all the hints were not mentioned before...

As for the structure which also makes this book interesting: It is divided into 3 main chapters. The first one is a more or less shorter part narrated by an unknown person suffering from Alzheimer. It serves as a sort of atmospheric prologue and of course like many other aspects in the book also to confuse and eventually mislead the reader in the end. After that follows the main part which is told in turn by chapters from Ayui's novelized version of the past and Isurugi's investigations in the present. The last part depicts the final developments in the present including twist after twist resulting from the previous elements in the other 2 parts. While those final developments don't necessarily turn the case itself upside-down it provided a thoughtful play on the roles and literary figures within detective fiction as a genre.

I could detail even more about why I thought this was a very neat book but since I also settled on reading it after reading about it's structure in a review and the real fun only started when I actually got to know the story, the case in the past, the characters involved etc. I decided to leave it at this information and just tell you that this is a thoughtful and witty parody not only criticizing but also cherishing the genre as a whole which also provides a very solid case and setting which I can really recommend to anyone who is loving the genre just as much as this writer does and who is willing to observe it from a slightly different point of view while still being able to enjoy it as a certainly orthodox mystery.


  1. h, I love these self-referencing detective novels! Another one for the list. And you also reminded me I still have to pick up Ayatsuji's Jukkakukan no Satsujin. Shame on me for still not having read any Ayatsuji!

    Making many references to European literature, art et cetera can be very annoying, if it comes out the mouth of a character. Especially if his name is Philo Vance.

  2. I do not want to spoil anything but the story and themes of the book are actually also fairly connected to the whole criticism/parody level. And sometimes Isurugi is just plain fun, like when idolizing Mizuki who he thought was just a fictional character in his favorite novel series or when he has moments like me when his imagination just runs wild.

    The Bishop Murders are still on their way into my postbox... And after realizing just HOW many works actually are a homage to Ayatsuji's yakata-series (or even jukkakukan no satsujin in particular) I just had to place an order including jukkakukan to know what apparently everyone seems to celebrate. So this will most likely be one of the first Japanese things I am going to read after finishing university-related stuff...