Friday, August 6, 2010


1989, Japan: A corpse in a locked library. 1243, France: 6 knights suddenly vanishing from a castle. 1918, Battle of Verdun: 4 corpses vanishing from the front. And endless cycle of impossible crime situations and the predestined demise of 2 lovers.

I tried to leave the plot's outline as elusive as possible since I think the book's own summary by Arisugawa Arisu already gave away too much. I needed some time to actually delve into this novel, maybe because of the aforementioned issue, but as soon as the first twist turned up I was immediately captivated and finished the rest of the book in one day without even caring about the extent of orthodox mystery this was supposed to be. I just read it as a very neat fantasy story. But of course there are several impossible crime situations exhibited in this novel. Exhibited indeed...

If I had a problem with Kitayama's second novel after his debut, it would be what also kind of irritated me in a later work of him. His physical tricks are nice and all, but sometimes his solutions really just end up in a trick exhibition. Especially in the most interesting crime situation in this novel it bugged me how he just threw the solution at the reader right away without much detail on the crime situation itself. Usually you have that situation and all the factors described pretty early in a mystery novel, at least after the exposition. In this case though, it almost takes half of the whole book for that to happen since due to the plot's structure and the different settings there was a lot to introduce before that could actually be done. And when he actually got there, Kitayama had to solve it right away since there were so many plot-related aspects waiting to be told.

What I'm trying to say is that in the context of Kitayama's series this novel has an exceedingly good plot, but the tricks suffer a bit because of that. So actually I would not read this book for the tricks but rather for the story since by doing it that way I think you'll get the most fun out of it. I could and would not want to judge whether other books in the series are better or worse, rurijou satsujinjiken is just totally different in focus of different aspects of Kitayama's style. The setting is even more Fantasy than his debut work and due to the dynamic buildup and suspense the crimes are presented and solved even more suddenly and slippy. I'm not saying whether this is a good or bad thing, it really depends on your personal taste, even more so this time.

After knowing all the entries in this series so far, I still have to say that the best crime and trick were definitely used in アリス・ミラー城. Kitayama has this habit of leaving out one certain detail that can totally render the whole deduction process until just before the solution. In said work he manages to do this without making it seem cheap at all since it did not help me with the solution at all, even if it was a very important aspect. That just proofed to me how brilliant that trick was. In
ギロチン城 he tried to make it possible for the reader to actually guess this missing factor. For me this seemed pretty much impossible in retrospect and with the clues given, while in アリス I thought the clues were pretty fair and the solution was hinted at distinctly.

All in all I can recommend this series as a whole, each book for different aspects and different focus in Kitayama's style. If I had to choose a favorite though, it would either be アリス or
ギロチン. While the latter was the most focused and harmonious one in terms of setting, characters and themes with a neat, though pretty much undeducible physical trick, アリス features my favorite locked room murder I encountered so far and the novel was the most entertaining, enjoyable one in general. Furthermore both feature a narrative trick as well, which in turn was handled more fair in ギロチン, but I liked the essence of both tricks equally. Definitely trying out and looking forward to more works of Kitayama after I 'worked off' most of my new book parcel and before that finishing my bachelor thesis...

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