Saturday, April 9, 2011


Tamiya Yasaburou brought his german wife Elisabeth over to Japan during the Meiji period and built a whole mansion for her. Their shared happiness did not last long though and she left him and their daughter returning to her homeland. Ever since the mansion has become a baneful stage for 2 murders with numerous victims.
1990: One year after 5 of their siblings/cousins and the mansion's caretaker were found dead after they seemingly killed each other while all of the mansion's exits were locked, Tamiya Anna, Rui, Otohiko, Touma and 2 uninvited guests meet at the crime scene to figure out what tragedy actually brought forth this strange incident.

This one is a bit difficult to rate. I managed to grab a second novel of Imamura Aya which featured exactly what I could have missed in the first book I've read by her, but on the other hand it also lacked what the other one excelled at: A satisfying trick.

I admit though, I might have been less disappointed if this wasn't part of a re-publication series with works chosen by Ayatsuji Yukito and Arisugawa Arisu who praise this as an intense orthodox mansion mystery. At least for me and I guess anyone who likes these authors, this raises expectations way too high. So let's look at both the orthodox and the mansion part:

As I've already mentioned, this novel certainly delivers in terms of setting and plot. The mansion, its history and residents, 6 corpses arranged according to a famous german fairy tale with fingerprints and blood spots suggesting they sequentially killed each other off while the mansion was locked completely surely are awesome groundwork. However as the reader only gets to know about what happened and not much happens since we are told everything from a perspective one or even umpteen years later, the suspense level stays pretty low. At least until the finale, which was fine, but definitely too short considering what would have been possible with that background. Heck, you could have included a whole new interesting crime situation with it's own trick and deduction, it's not like the book was too long. If anything, it felt too short for such a neat playground. Furthermore the mansion itself did not feature anything peculiar, unique or fancy so the place where everything took/takes place could not guarantee the atmosphere on its own. The story itself was constructed very well though and even kind of included a symbolic connection to the stucture of the fairy tale that's used for the murders. Everything gets together without significant gaps. If I had to criticize something it might be that the culprit's motivation was not that convincing. Plus the fact that therefore I don't think you can guess it logically.

The trick was rather simple which would not be entirely bad if it was simple because it's logical or simple but hard to guess. I don't think it's either of the two cases. The method the trick worked with is kind of improbable. Doing all that without being noticed or anything else of the whole plan failing in the process was almost unthinkable even for my personal suspension of disbelief. So while the solution is simple I have to agree I did not come up with it but I think I would have if I thought more about it. But even if I figured it out, I would have discarded it right away due to low probability of success.

I really might be a bit harsh on this one and be a bit biased due to my personal expectations after what was said about this novel and after I wanted to get to know and like Imamura Aya more. I'll definitely give this author another chance sometime though as I cannot say I didn't enjoy reading this mystery even considering all the remarks and maybe her Kijima Keiji Series really fits my taste more. Ayatsuji Yukito is my number one for mansion mysteries and he's just so good at it that it really takes a lot of skill to create something equal. Same goes for atmosphere, there are many authors that excel in that field though. What the first Kijima novel achieved was short but very solid entertainment featuring a strong alibi/locked room puzzle and as long as the other re-publications can hold that up I'm in for them.

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