"So your conclusion to the locked room is suicide. If I were a reader, the book would have been ripped in two"
Inspector Sunagawa is luckily not a reader, but a character within the story
"Shoot Towards the Locked Room!"
I had originally planned to post this review after Kanou Tomoko's Nanatsu no Ko. The sudden insertion of the Short Short yesterday however, rendered the introduction I had written initially totally unusable. Why change the order? Because I didn't want to stop the posting cycle with a Short Short. Why I don't spread the few posts I do write a month more evenly instead of focusing it all on a couple of days? Because that would make sense.
Higashigawa Tokuya's Ikagawashi series, a set of stories set in the fictional town of Ikagawashi. It is a direct sequel to the first volume, with all the major characters appearing again. We are first re-introduced to the (mostly) bumbling police inspectors Sunagawa and Shiki, who surprisingly, or as expected, make a big mistake during an attempt to arrest a wanted man. The result: a dead suspect and someone making off with an illegally manufactured pistol loaded with an unknown amount of bullets. A couple of weeks after the incident, the body of a homeless man is found shot through the chest, followed by another big incident at the mansion of the wealthy Juujouji family, with two injured men, one death and the recovery of the pistol. But where did the mysterious assailant disappear to? The only access (and escape route) to the murder scene, a mansion annex built on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, was observed by several witnesses, so the only conclusion is that the murderer must have thrown himself off the cliff into the sea. Or did he? 'Great detective' Ukai and his 'disciple' Ryuuhei have a personal stake in this case and are determined to find out the truth behind the disappearing murderer.
By now I've written quite often about Higashigawa Tokuya's works, so I'll just keep to the short description this time: he writes orthodox comedy detectives. The afterword in my pocket edition written by Sengai Akiyuki describes Higashigawa Tokuya's works as addictive, in the sense that they become funnier/better/harder to resist the more you read them. Which is definitely the case with me. Misshitsu ni Mukatte Ute! works as a comedy detective novel because it builds on the great parts of Misshitsu no Kagi Kashimasu, with great banter between the two duos of Ukai/Ryuuhei and Sunagawa/Shiki and slapstick comedy scenes. The book is probably not nearly as funny without any knowledge of the first novel. That certainly creates a small barrier, but hey, the first novel was fun too, so why wouldn't you read it? In fact, much of the comedy of Higashigawa Tokuya's novels depend on running jokes, so it shouldn't surprise that these jokes also run over several novels.
But Higashigawa would certainly not have been this popular if his only talent would have been to write funny stories. As always, his comedy is partly a devious way to hide his hints to the solution, luring the reader in a false sense of security. Heck, even running jokes are not safe and when you finally realize that a running joke was actually a significant hint thrown at you time after time, well, that hurts. In a good way. This time, Higashigawa also created an interesting non-linear, multi-route deduction map. And I apologize to those who don't understand videogames lingo. Anyway, at the end of the story, we see two different characters following up two different lines of deductions to arrive at the same murderer. While the two deductions are imperfect on their own (so you really need to have read both deductions to understand everything), it is still a refreshing way to look at the case, as both routes do lead to the correct murderer.
An interesting point of this novel was the whole disappearing pistol problem. Higashigawa not only came up with an explanation for the murderer actually having a gun in a country where it is difficult to procure a gun (which is the way it should be anyway...), he also follows up this explanation to its logical consequences. A limited amount of bullets, no use of silencers, experience in handling guns, the fact that the murder weapon is an illegally manufactured gun comes back in several ways in the deductions that lead up to the conclusion and this was really well done by Higashigawa, I think.
Interesting was also the way Higashigawa changed the setting of this novel, compared to Misshitsu no Kagi Kashimasu. The latter was clearly urban, while Misshitsu ni Mukatte Ute! is set in a big Western mansion on top of a cliff. So what did Higashigawa do? He went down the Yokomizo Seishi-route. We don't have ancient spirits of warriors cutting down people, but we do have a trio of wealthy and influential candidate fiances vying for the hand of Juujouji Sakura, the heiress of the Juujouji family (Yes, it's Jououbachi I'm thinking about). Actually, the way Ukai manages to be at the scene during the times the shooting incident happens also seems inspired by Yokomizo Seishi, with Kindaichi Kousuke often coming across murder cases while he is hired for different (less bloody) investigations. It was a funny change of tone, especially as I was so enthusiastic about the urban setting of Misshitsu no Kagi Kashimasu.
And it took me almost a month to finish this book, despite me obviously having fun with it. Why? No idea. I only know it took me two days to read the first 150 pages, afterwards I fell into a slow, slow schedule of reading two or three pages every two days or so for three weeks. And then I decided I really should finish the book last night. I hope my next book won't take this long.
Original Japanese title(s): 東川篤哉 『密室に向かって撃て！』