Turning Japanese #2: The Moai Island Puzzle (1989) by Alice Arisugawa (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

I don’t do my detective fiction by halves so I bought this at the same time as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders to give shin honkaku at least two chances to impress. That book was an unqualified delight but how does this second offering fare?

Alice Arisugawa is a member of his Eito University’s Mystery Club. He and Jiro Egami have been invited by a third member, Maria Arima, to stay at her family’s island holiday home in the hope that between them they can find the diamonds hidden there by her grandfather. The only clues are a group of moai statues who form the start of an “evolving puzzle”.

Their stay begins well but soon two dead bodies are found in a locked room and it is only a matter of time before the determined killer strikes again.

As the radio set has been smashed and the boat is not due for several days, the three GAD aficianados continue with the treasure hunt whilst investigating the murders and are eventually successful but are unlikely to read detective fiction again in such a carefree fashion.

The first part of the solution to the locked room mystery is very good, the second less so, but Arisugawa has allowed for this with something Egami has already said. There is also a fantastic dying message clue.

Another very satisfying read – next stop further back in time to try some honkaku.

What Else I’ve Been Reading Recently

Mystery at Lynden Sands (1928) by J. J. Connington

A man disfigured by war returns to claim his inheritance and death follows hot on his heels. Quite good in parts but I think this is where I part ways with JJC. I had the realisation that Freeman Wills Crofts is the superior “Humdrum” writer as we follow French’s investigations in detail and have some idea of why he is pursuing the lines of inquiry that he takes. Sir Clinton Driffield keeps his cards closer to his chest and so his thought processes are only shown after the killer has been revealed.

Ten Days’ Wonder (1948) by Ellery Queen

Howard Van Horn wakes up in New York following another blackout and as a last resort seeks out Ellery Queen who he met some years before in Paris. Ellery suspects that Howard is worried that he has committed a crime during one of his spells and agrees to go home with him. It just so happens that Howard hails from Wrightsville and so Ellery goes there for the third time where he once more encounters the secrets and lies hidden in small-town America. A satisfying conclusion to the “Wrightsville Murders” trilogy and for reasons of continuity means that I had to get hold of “Cat of Many Tails” to read before I get onto the further adventures of Ellery Queen already on my TBR pile.

13 thoughts on “Turning Japanese #2: The Moai Island Puzzle (1989) by Alice Arisugawa (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)”

  1. The Moai Island Puzzle is fantastic. I love the whole puzzle about how the killer could get to the house across the bay to commit the murder. I’ve been meaning to read some more Japanese locked room mysteries and will probably do so after I finish my current book.

    I haven’t gotten around to reading any Connington yet, but I’ve read a number of reviews that make his books sound attractive. It’s interesting to see how you consider him to be lesser than Crofts.

    As for Ten Days Wonder… it’s a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s an entertaining read as far as Queen books go, but the whole ending just felt a bit ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In terms of Connington, of those I’ve read, I can recommend Murder in the Maze and The Case with Nine Solutions (although don’t be fooled as I was by the title – this is nothing like The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley) as being good quality mysteries. No Past is Dead was enjoyable, The Twenty One Clues was OK but avoid The Four Defenses. Mystery at Lynden Sands was fine – it just had elements that reminded me of other books that did them much better e.g. the claimant in The Crooked Hinge by John Dickson Carr and the beach crime scene in Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers.

      In his introduction to the Coachwhip editions, Curtis Evans highlights Murder in the Maze, The Castleford Conundrum, and The Tau Cross Mystery as being amongst his best.

      In terms of Ten Days’ Wonder (contains spoilers so convert with ROT13) Rira gubhtu sebz gur puncgre urnqvatf V xarj gurer jnf gur gragu qnl, naq gurersber Ryyrel’f svefg rkcynangvba zhfg or jebat V jnf fjrcg nybat sebz gur cneg jurer ur ernyvfrf gung Qrrqf znl abg or gur cynaarq ivpgvz. V yvxr ubj gur raqvat pbagenfgf jvgu gur svefg gjb Jevtugfivyyr obbxf juvpu ner choyvp snvyherf naq cevingrf fhpprffrf naq tvirf hf vafgrnq n znffvir choyvp fhpprff juvpu gura snyyf ncneg vagb cevingr snvyher. V qba’g guvax ur fubhyq orng uvzfrys hc gung zhpu gubhtu – vs ur unqa’g pbzr onpx jvgu Ubjneq, Qrrqf jbhyq unir xvyyrq gurz naljnl, whfg qvssreragyl. Vg jvyy or vagrerfgvat gb frr ubj ur vf pbaivaprq gb pbzr onpx naq cynl gur yvggyr gva tbq ntnva va Png bs Znal Gnvyf.


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