By Takemaru Abiko
First published: Japan, 1989
First English translation: Locked Room International, 2018
Like most shin honkaku, it’s abstract and skeletal.
No atmosphere; no sense of the wider world; and little story or plot complexity. The characters barely exist; they’re not even plot functions, more names to fill up rooms in the 8 Mansion.
The explanation (with lengthy cribbing from Carr’s Locked Room Lecture) is tedious. The solution to one locked room is clever, if hard to swallow; the other is plausible, but not exciting. Neither is in Carr or Chesterton’s class.
Nor is there any convincing motive for the crimes; the murderer, we learn, is mad.
There are, though, a couple of clever false solutions, and a boomerang misdirection.
It’s also apparently aimed at children (gruesome murders aside). The police detective’s squabbling teenage siblings solve his case for him. Sample dialogue:
I’m not jealous.
Yes, you are.
No, I am not.
You are soooooooooooo.
For yucks, the policeman accidentally maims his hapless sidekick. He sprains his legs; breaks all his limbs; and sends him hurtling down a 200-step-long staircase in a wheelchair.
The Japanese also invented gameshows where people climb up spiked walls; are squashed by balls; fall into shallow moats from a height; eat spaghetti in dryers; and try to force grasshoppers down their opponent’s throat. Usually while sliding over a line of oiled girls in bikinis.