The 8 Mansion Murders (Takemaru Abiko)

By Takemaru Abiko

First published: Japan, 1989

First English translation: Locked Room International, 2018


2 stars

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.

(NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!)

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.