#63 – The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

St Mary Mead is all a-flutter when film star Marina Gregg rents Gossington Hall and they all turn out when she opens the gardens for the benefit of the St John Ambulance Association. It is there that Heather Badcock is poisoned, an unlikely target for murder it would seem – until it is revealed that she was not the intended victim.

The book begins with Miss Marple’s open imprisonment in her own home by the well-meaning Miss Knight, a companion paid for by nephew Raymond as following a nasty case of bronchitis Dr Haydock has said “she must not go on sleeping alone in the house with only someone coming in daily”.

However she manages to trick Miss Knight into going shopping for all sorts of things that couldn’t possibly be available and she sneaks out to the Development, a new estate adjoining the village and in a short time manages to sow a seed of a doubt in the mind of a fiancée and then have a fall which leads her to meet the soon to be unlucky Heather.

This framing of the story as society continues to change from the old to the new was something I had forgotten, being more familiar with the story from the Angela Lansbury/Elizabeth Taylor film.

Due to her accident, Miss Marple is not on the scene of the crime, and so has to rely on the witness testimony to piece together what has happened.

A fine book with one of the best motives Christie ever used.

Recurring Character Development

Miss Marple

Her uncle had been a Canon of Chichester Cathedral and she had been to stay with him in the Close as a child.

She would be very old by now, at least if she is still alive, according to Chief Inspector Craddock. He calls her Aunty as a joke.

Dolly Bantry

Her husband, the Colonel, died some years ago, so she sold Gossington Hall, and moved into the East Lodge.

Signs of the Times

Mr Toms’ basket shop has been replaced by, oh horror, a supermarket. “You’re expected to take a basket yourself and go round looking for things,” says Miss Hartnell. Eventually we have ended up doing the bagging ourselves as well with self-service checkouts before things have gone full circle and now we can have our food once more delivered to the door, not by the butcher’s boy or the baker’s boy but by a representative of a national corporation.

Miss Marple passes some sinister looking young men who she takes to be Teds. The term Teddy Boys, to refer to those who dressed like the dandies of the Edwardian period of the early 20th century, had been coined in 1953.

As Miss Marple is having trouble knitting, Dr Haydock suggests that she should unravel “like Penelope”. To put off suitors in the long absence of her husband Odysseus, she weaved a burial shroud for his father, promising to remarry once it was finished, but each night she unwound it.

Hailey Preston’s views are reminiscent of those of Dr Pangloss. Professor Pangloss appeared in Voltaire’s “Candide” (1759).

Cherry refers to Haigh “who pickled them all in acid”. John Haigh (1909-49) was a convicted fraudster who decided that to avoid future imprisonment he should kill his victims to prevent them reporting his crimes. He dissolved the bodies of at least six victims in acid, wrongly believing that he could not be tried for murder in the absence of a body.

Miss Marple refers to a book by Richard Hughes about a hurricane in Jamaica. This is “A High Wind in Jamaica” (1929) also known as “The Innocent Voyage”.

References to previous works

Mention is made of events from “The Body in the Library” and “Murder at the Vicarage”. The Reverend and Mrs Clement must have left St Mary Mead as she now gets a Christmas card each year from Griselda.

Craddock refers to the “Tuesday Night Club” the group that appeared in “The Thirteen Problems”.

 

 

 

#63 – The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side – WITH SPOILERS

St Mary Mead is all a-flutter when film star Marina Gregg rents Gossington Hall and they all turn out when she opens the gardens for the benefit of the St John Ambulance Association. It is there that Heather Badcock is poisoned, an unlikely target for murder it would seem – until it is revealed that she was not the intended victim.

The book begins with Miss Marple’s open imprisonment in her own home by the well-meaning Miss Knight, a companion paid for by nephew Raymond as following a nasty case of bronchitis Dr Haydock has said “she must not go on sleeping alone in the house with only someone coming in daily”.

However she manages to trick Miss Knight into going shopping for all sorts of things that couldn’t possibly be available and she sneaks out to the Development, a new estate adjoining the village and in a short time manages to sow a seed of a doubt in the mind of a fiancée and then have a fall which leads her to meet the soon to be unlucky Heather.

This framing of the story as society continues to change from the old to the new was something I had forgotten, being more familiar with the story from the Angela Lansbury/Elizabeth Taylor film.

Due to her accident, Miss Marple is not on the scene of the crime, and so has to rely on the witness testimony to piece together what has happened.

A fine book with one of the best motives Christie ever used.

Recurring Character Development

Miss Marple

Her uncle had been a Canon of Chichester Cathedral and she had been to stay with him in the Close as a child.

She would be very old by now, at least if she is still alive, according to Chief Inspector Craddock. He calls her Aunty as a joke.

Dolly Bantry

Her husband, the Colonel, died some years ago, so she sold Gossington Hall, and moved into the East Lodge.

Signs of the Times

Mr Toms’ basket shop has been replaced by, oh horror, a supermarket. “You’re expected to take a basket yourself and go round looking for things,” says Miss Hartnell. Eventually we have ended up doing the bagging ourselves as well with self-service checkouts before things have gone full circle and now we can have our food once more delivered to the door, not by the butcher’s boy or the baker’s boy but by a representative of a national corporation.

Miss Marple passes some sinister looking young men who she takes to be Teds. The term Teddy Boys, to refer to those who dressed like the dandies of the Edwardian period of the early 20th century, had been coined in 1953.

As Miss Marple is having trouble knitting, Dr Haydock suggests that she should unravel “like Penelope”. To put off suitors in the long absence of her husband Odysseus, she weaved a burial shroud for his father, promising to remarry once it was finished, but each night she unwound it.

Hailey Preston’s views are reminiscent of those of Dr Pangloss. Professor Pangloss appeared in Voltaire’s “Candide” (1759).

Cherry refers to Haigh “who pickled them all in acid”. John Haigh (1909-49) was a convicted fraudster who decided that to avoid future imprisonment he should kill his victims to prevent them reporting his crimes. He dissolved the bodies of at least six victims in acid, wrongly believing that he could not be tried for murder in the absence of a body.

Miss Marple refers to a book by Richard Hughes about a hurricane in Jamaica. This is “A High Wind in Jamaica” (1929) also known as “The Innocent Voyage”.

References to previous works

Mention is made of events from “The Body in the Library” and “Murder at the Vicarage”. The Reverend and Mrs Clement must have left St Mary Mead as she now gets a Christmas card each year from Griselda.

Craddock refers to the “Tuesday Night Club” the group that appeared in “The Thirteen Problems”.

SPOILERS

The motive is devastating -and in light of the current pandemic very relevant – and yet is well hidden because of the implication that it is what Marina Gregg saw that is key:

“I mean, I don’t believe she’d even heard what Mrs Badcock was saying. She was just staring with what I call this Lady of Shalott look, as though she’d seen something awful. Something frightening, something that she could hardly believe she saw and couldn’t bear to see”

Christie has used the “look over the shoulder” before and would use it again, but here it is the look here that is irrelevant in a sense because Marina heard all too clearly what Heather said.

It is a neat touch that Heather met Marina twice at events for the St John Ambulance Association, a medical organisation committed to helping people, and yet it was fatal for them both.

I like the fact that in this book Miss Marple can protect a vulnerable Gladys, something she couldn’t do in “A Pocket Full of Rye”.

 

Turning Japanese #10: Ellery Queen’s Japanese Mystery Stories (1978)

Japanese Mystery Stories you say – anthologised by Ellery Queen you say – sign me up I say!

With my increasing interest in Japanese Detective Fiction buying this was a no-brainer. Originally published in 1978 as “Ellery Queen’s Japanese Golden Dozen” this contains twelve stories written in the 1970s. Unfortunately details of the translators are not provided so I can’t give them the credit they so richly deserve.

Too Much About Too Many by Eirao Ishizawa*

Taro Usami was a quiet man whom his colleagues confide in without thinking about it until someone realises they have said too much and that he must be silenced forever. A good use of a very old idea.

The Cooperative Defendant by Seicho Matsumoto

The case seemed simple… the police had a confession and then everything started to unravel. Although the style was very different, the content reminded me of the stories of Cyril Hare.

A Letter from the Dead by Tohru Miyoshi

Shunya Wakizaka is fed up of working on the readers’ column of a Tokyo newspaper so jumps at the chance to investigate a letter written from beyond the grave.

Devil of a Boy by Seiichi Morimura

Soichi Ono is a bad boy but would he really kill someone?

Cry from the Cliff by Shizuko Natsuki

Shin’ichi Takida is drawn back into the life of an old school friend with tragic consequences. Something struck me about this early on and if I’d have held on to it I may solved this one.

The Kindly Blackmailer by Kyotaro Nishimura*

A new customer entered the barber shop. And with that Shinkichi Nomura’s life is turned upside down.

No Proof by Yoh Sano*

Keiji Nogami surprises his colleagues with disastrous consequences. The most Queenian of these stories.

Invitation from the Sea by Saho Sasazawa

Sadahiko Kogawa accepts an anonymous invitation from “The Sea” only to find he is not the only guest at the gathering.

Facial Restoration by Tadao Sohno

Goro Koike, working in the new field of reconstructing a dead person’s face from just their skull, receives assistance from an unlikely source.

The Vampire by Masako Togawa

Jiro has his blood sucked in different ways by different people – not really my cup of tea.

Write In, Rub Out by Takao Tsuchiya

There is more to Misae Akitsu’s suicide than meets the eye – best not to read the introduction to this one. Another with a more Queenian bent.

Perfectly Lovely Ladies by Yasutaka Tsutsui*

An initially amusing but ultimately chilling and disturbing tale of what eight “perfectly lovely ladies” get up to when they become dissatisfied with their lot in life.

With the stories all coming from the Seventies and thus falling between the honkaku and shin honkaku periods, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting, however there was enough good in their to make it worth my while with stories marked * being my favourites.

Aidan’s much more detailed review can be found at Mysteries Ahoy! and Dan picks his top 5 at The Reader is Warned.

 

Previous posts in this series:

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

The 8 Mansion Murders by Takemaru Abiko

Death in the House of Rain by Szu-Yen Lin

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji – WITH SPOILERS

The Red Locked Room by Tetsuya Ayukawa

The Opening Night Murders (2019) by James Scott Byrnside

I read Goodnight Irene last month and it was so good that I had to immediately order its sequel.

Eight years on from that case, Rowan Manory feels old but the arrival of “attractive specimen” Lisa Pluvium perks him up. She has received an anonymous letter promising that she will die on the opening night of “The Balcony”, a play that she is putting on with her sister Jenny.

Manory sits in the stalls with his sidekick Walter Williams watching backstage but despite these precautions death arrives as promised – and no one saw a thing.

Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it the set-up is a clear homage to “Death of Jezebel”- unsurprising given Byrnside dedicated his first book to Christianna Brand – and we are explicitly given a Brandian closed circle of suspects. A second murder – no spoiler it’s in the title after all –  reminded me of something from another Brand book but I failed to make anything of it.

This included one of the most shocking things I have read in a long time as once again Byrnside delivers a brilliant solution which pulls everything together.

So soon I will move onto “The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire” – an earlier adventure which is referred to in the first chapter – and then hope that Byrnside publishes something new later this year. I haven’t anticipated a brand new series this much since the Redwall books in the early 90s!

N.B. this includes full spoilers for Goodnight Irene so make sure you start there.

 

Too Many Magicians (1966) by Randall Garrett

It’s the 1960s and Lord Darcy is a criminal investigator: but is he suave like the Saint, flamboyant like Jason King, or groovy like Austin Powers? Well there is no direct comparison to be made as he lives on a parallel earth with no Swinging Sixties in sight.

History changed when Richard I was not killed at Chaluz in 1199 and ended up outliving his brother John (a Bad Man who in our world became a Bad King and thus a Bad Thing) eventually being succeeded by his nephew Arthur who ushered in a second age of Camelot. During this time St. Hilary of Walsingham set out his Laws of Magic and so the road of progress moved away from the scientific. The most advanced natural technology in Lord Darcy’s world is the teleson, a form of telephone, although it is more expensive for a local call than to take a cab across London and no one has been able to get the cabling right to carry across the Channel.

Master Sean O Lochlainn, Chief Forensic Sorceror to His Royal Highness, Richard, Duke of Normandy, and regular partner of Lord Darcy, is attending the Triennial Convention of Healers and Sorcerors when Master Sir James Zwinge, Chief Forensic Sorceror for the City of London, is murdered inside his locked bedroom. As the dead man’s last words were “Master Sean! Help!” Sean soon finds himself in the Tower of London and so Lord Darcy is dragged semi-unwillingly into the case.

Garrett has created a magnificent world for his characters to inhabit and my copy includes the ten short stories in which they appear, in publication order, so being able to read three cases first sets the scene well for this novel.

This title appeared on my radar as it is fourteenth on the Ed Hoch Best 15 Locked Room Mystery and as I’m a sucker for a parallel world – one of my favourite Doctor Who stories is “Inferno” with Jon Pertwee – this had been on my wishlist for some time. My immediate reaction on the solution to the locked room was disappointment as it didn’t fit in with my expectations – although to a degree it did – and if it had it probably wouldn’t have made the Hoch list and then I wouldn’t have been aware of it -and it clearly wasn’t what Garrett was intending to do, either in this book, or through the stories as a whole. Also I was not well and awaiting the result of a covid test -fortunately negative – so that may have had something to do with it.

However, I did enjoy continuing to learn about the principles of forensic magic and how they provide Lord Darcy with the evidence from which he can draw his conclusions, and I recommend this stylish book for taking the principles of detection into a brand new scenario.

One word of warning, leave the introduction to the end as it reveals far too much.

 

 

#62 – The Pale Horse

Father Gorman is coshed and killed after visiting a dying woman. It may have been taken for a mugging gone wrong had a list of names not been found hidden in his shoe.

Narrator Mark Easterbrook hears about this list from his friend Jim Corrigan, the police surgeon and initially makes nothing of it. He is more interested in the Pale Horse that was mentioned during a discussion about Macbeth’s Third Murderer and how it would be handy to be able to whistle up a killer to commit an everyday murder for you.

While staying with relatives in the country he hears about a Pale Horse – an old inn now owned by three women, reputed to be witches – but could they really be a trio of murderers?

I won’t say more because one of the strengths of this book is the incremental build up of information.

There are some good ideas at the heart of this, although the type of business that Mr Bradley conducts I’ve definitely come across in at least one short story (possibly by Stanley Ellin – does anyone know what I mean?), but re-reading this I feel that there is a big element that is important for the story as a whole but really serves no purpose at all. Combined with an excess of characters doing the sleuthing this was unfortunately rather a let down.

Recurring Character Development

Ariadne Oliver

Has a maid called Milly who “guards her from the onslaught of the outside world”.

Her books include at least 55 murders.

By the end of the book she has published “The White Cockatoo” which she was working on at the beginning.

Signs of the Times

The first page refers to an espresso machine and a jet plane, signs that this an up to date book at the time, although as the book goes on to show for all our modern inventions we can never be sure that everything can be explained.

Ginger humourously imagines Miss Grey as being “like Madame de Montespan on a black velvet altar”. The Marquise de Montespan (1640-1707) was a mistress of Louis XIV and was rumoured to have taken part in witchcraft including having a priest perform a black mass over her naked body.

Venables quotes “The world is so full of a number of things” which is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses”.

Bradley says “a man can bet on anything he pleases…whether the Russians can send a man to the moon”. This book was published later in the year that Yuri Gagarin first flew in space and before Kennedy’s speech of the next year committing to getting a man on the moon before the end of the Sixties so at this point the Russians may have been favourites.

Mark refers to a woman looking to poison a man as “a second Madeleine Smith”. Smith (1835-1928) was accused of the 1857 murder of her lover, Pierre Emile L’Angerlier, who died of arsenic poisoning. She was found not guilty on one count and not proven on another despite having a strong motive and having purchased arsenic shortly before the death.

References to previous works

Mark’s cousin appeared in “Cards on the Table”.

Mrs Oliver refers to the Murder Hunt that she organised in “Dead Man’s Folly”.

The Reverend and Mrs Dane Calthrop appeared in “The Moving Finger”.

 

#62 – The Pale Horse – WITH SPOILERS

Father Gorman is coshed and killed after visiting a dying woman. It may have been taken for a mugging gone wrong had a list of names not been found hidden in his shoe.

Narrator Mark Easterbrook hears about this list from his friend Jim Corrigan, the police surgeon and initially makes nothing of it. He is more interested in the Pale Horse that was mentioned during a discussion about Macbeth’s Third Murderer and how it would be handy to be able to whistle up a killer to commit an everyday murder for you.

While staying with relatives in the country he hears about a Pale Horse – an old inn now owned by three women, reputed to be witches – but could they really be a trio of murderers?

I won’t say more because one of the strengths of this book is the incremental build up of information.

There are some good ideas at the heart of this, although the type of business that Mr Bradley conducts I’ve definitely come across in at least one short story (possibly by Stanley Ellin – does anyone know what I mean?), but re-reading this I feel that there is a big element that is important for the story as a whole but really serves no purpose at all. Combined with an excess of characters doing the sleuthing this was unfortunately rather a let down.

Recurring Character Development

Ariadne Oliver

Has a maid called Milly who “guards her from the onslaught of the outside world”.

Her books include at least 55 murders.

By the end of the book she has published “The White Cockatoo” which she was working on at the beginning.

Signs of the Times

The first page refers to an espresso machine and a jet plane, signs that this an up to date book at the time, although as the book goes on to show for all our modern inventions we can never be sure that everything can be explained.

Ginger humourously imagines Miss Grey as being “like Madame de Montespan on a black velvet altar”. The Marquise de Montespan (1640-1707) was a mistress of Louis XIV and was rumoured to have taken part in witchcraft including having a priest perform a black mass over her naked body.

Venables quotes “The world is so full of a number of things” which is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses”.

Bradley says “a man can bet on anything he pleases…whether the Russians can send a man to the moon”. This book was published later in the year that Yuri Gagarin first flew in space and before Kennedy’s speech of the next year committing to getting a man on the moon before the end of the Sixties so at this point the Russians may have been favourites.

Mark refers to a woman looking to poison a man as “a second Madeleine Smith”. Smith (1835-1928) was accused of the 1857 murder of her lover, Pierre Emile L’Angerlier, who died of arsenic poisoning. She was found not guilty on one count and not proven on another despite having a strong motive and having purchased arsenic shortly before the death.

References to previous works

Mark’s cousin appeared in “Cards on the Table”.

Mrs Oliver refers to the Murder Hunt that she organised in “Dead Man’s Folly”.

The Reverend and Mrs Dane Calthrop appeared in “The Moving Finger”.

SPOILERS

Betting on your victim to survive and hoping that you lose – great idea! – although isn’t this what life insurance is? Insurers may call it “pooling risk” but essentially you’re making a bet that you’ll die and hoping that you lose! Having market researchers check what brands someone uses so that you prepare poison in something they won’t notice – great idea!

But what is The Pale Horse itself for? Poppy puts Ginger and Mark in touch with Bradley directly – Thyrza Grey doesn’t send him – and it is Bradley who sends him back to The Pale Horse. What’s the point of having the customers believe that their target has been killed by mysterious means?

That is my struggle with the book on this re-read – can anyone provide a good reason for it?

Sherlockian Shorts #1 – A Study in Scarlet

A new series of posts, containing full spoilers, as I make my way once more through the complete canon, picking out points of interest and reflecting on my personal experience of the stories.

  • Watson meets Holmes at the point that the latter has discovered an infallible test for blood stains. This is 22 years before the creation of the Kastle-Meyer test.
  • When discussing their worst points Watson confesses to keeping a bull pup – I didn’t remember any other references in later stories to him having a dog though! This is because it exists purely as a plot device so that when Holmes wants to test the pills for poison which were found at Stangerson’s murder scene there is a suitable subject. The dog has been ill for some time and the landlady has been asking Watson to put it out of its misery.
  • Due to periods where Holmes lies on the sofa for days on end with “such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes” Watson would have suspected him of “being addicted to the use of some narcotic had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion”. He will soon come to learn the truth, that addict or not, Holmes is certainly a drug user.
  • Watson is astounded that Holmes is ignorant of the Copernican theory of the solar system. Holmes responds that having been informed of it, he will try to forget it as it has no relevance to his work. To an extent I agree with him – we need to be taught many things as we don’t know what direction our lives will take us –  but being an accountant, knowing whether the earth orbits the sun or vice versa has no impact on my day to day life whatsoever. I’m happy to believe the former but if someone wants to argue the latter it doesn’t matter to me.
  • Lestrade, Holmes’ regular contact at Scotland Yard is mentioned first and is involved in the investigation, but it is actually Tobias Gregson who calls him into this first published case.
  • The murderer is the first invisible man perhaps – they know Drebber took a cab to where he was murdered but no one else has included the driver on the list of suspects.
  • Chapters 8-12 can be skipped without losing anything of importance – I know because this time round I did. Jefferson Hope explains in chapter 13 that he is avenging the deaths of two people and that is sufficient motive.
  • I love Hope’s method of giving his victims a chance by having the pairs of pills of which just one contains poison – although he is convinced that the righteousness of his cause will prevail.

 

Turning Japanese #9: The Red Locked Room (1954-61) by Tetsuya Ayukawa (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

The blurb to this recent Lock Room International anthology boldly compares Ayukawa to two kings of the mystery genre:

“Few writers of detective fiction can match both John Dickson Carr and Freeman Wills Crofts at their own game. Included in this superb collection by Tetsuya Ayukawa, recognized as the doyen of the honkaku mystery, are four impossible crime stories and three unbreakable alibi tales. The final story “The Red Locked Room” can lay claim to be one of the finest ever written in the genre. Judge for yourself.”

Before getting into that judging, let’s meet our sleuths as outlined by Taku Ashibe* in his informative introduction:

Stories marked (O) feature Chief Inspector Onitsura who is “mostly occupied with breaking down alibis…and is perhaps best described as ‘Ellery Queen wearing the face of Inspector French'”.

Stories marked (H) feature amateur detective Ryuzo Hoshikage “to whom Chief Inspector Tadokoro turns in much the same way as Inspector Lestrade turned to Sherlock Holmes”.

The White Locked Room (H)

The Meteorological Agency may have underestimated the amount of snow that fell but at least they recorded accurately that it stopped at 8.40pm, a vital piece of evidence in this no-footprints mystery. I’m not that well read in this specific sub-genre so I can’t give it a fair rating but I liked it, especially the import of armchair detective Ryuzo Hoshikage’s questions on whether a suspect had hurt his foot and whether anyone had reported a dog or cat being burnt in the neighbourhood.

Whose Body? (O)

An empty acid bottle, a recently fired gun, and a length of rope are sent to three artists. What may have been a joke of some sort turns out to much more sinister when a week later a body is found on which these “three tools of death” may have been used.

This initial set-up and then the ideas which are explored here are brilliant and could well have been fashioned into a full-length novel. The only issue I have is with the presentation as we don’t see much of the detection taking place but rather are given the explanations after the events have taken place.

The Blue Locked Room (H)

Uses a classic GAD trope in one aspect but apart from that there’s not much to write home about.

Death in Early Spring (O)

The prologue states:

“To understand the full detail of what happened, it is unfortunately necessary to examine a dry series of railway timetables. Only by doing so will it become clear how the culprit managed to mystify the chief inspector without utilising any special trickery of their own.”

The statement above is somewhat unexpected and yet is proved to be completely accurate. I loved this one as well and I think Crofts would have as well, particularly as it is through innovative work done by National Railways that Onitsura ends up on the right track.

The Clown in the Tunnel (H)

Not just a murderous clown, but a murderous clown that vanishes from inside a tunnel under observation at both ends – sleep well everybody!

This includes a neat trick which I’m sure I must have come across before but can’t remember where.

The Five Clocks (O)

A suspect’s alibi seems too good to be true but if it is not true how could he have fixed five separate clocks to make it seem true?

This contains a neat chance piece of evidence that puts the final nail into the criminal’s coffin but unnecessarily misses out a key bit of evidence from someone’s account to the police and again has too much tell and not enough show.

The Red Locked Room (H)

An after hours dissection of a murder victim takes place on a university campus but where were the body parts to be sent and how did the killer get in and out of the locked facility?

This is a top-notch puzzle and it makes me wonder whether Ayukawa was aware of a particular story and whether this is a deliberate nod to it.

Conclusion

Overall I think the comparison to FWC is more apt than to JDC but I would say 5 from the 7 stories are strong and justify having bought this collection. If you, like me, want to see more translations of Japanese mysteries, then get hold of this to show that the demand is there.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to taking a look (probably in a couple of month’s time) at Locked Room International’s latest offering “Lending the Key to the Locked Room” by Tokuya Higashigawa.

*Having looked him up I’ve now got another book to add to my wishlist “Murder in the Red Chamber”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous posts in this series:

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

The 8 Mansion Murders by Takemaru Abiko

Death in the House of Rain by Szu-Yen Lin

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji – WITH SPOILERS

The Laughing Policeman (1968) by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (translated by Alan Blair)

Roseanna was followed by “The Man Who Went Up In Smoke”, an investigation of the disappearance of a journalist with a Croftsian style methodology and solution (although Inspector French was never propositioned in any way and certainly not in a manner this explicit) and “The Man on the Balcony”, a tale of city under the shadow of a serial child-killer, and then we come onto the fourth and the most lauded of the Martin Beck dectet.

Eight passengers are killed and one wounded when someone opens fire on a bus late one night. The work of a madman? Or does the presence of one of Martin Beck’s officers, given his particular talent, point to something more subtle?

This can be read as a standalone but the benefit of reading it in order is that you feel more for the characters, both the dead man and his colleagues.

Kvant and Kristiansson, the unlikely heroes of the previous book, become the hapless villains of the piece following their discovery of the crime scene. We see a more human side to one-man wrecking ball Gunvald Larsson. Martin Beck is more depressed though his relationship with his teenage daughter seems to be good even if he isn’t amused by the comic record of the title which she gives him for Christmas.

How the key pieces of evidence are pulled together is beautifully done and by the time you reach the final line you may laugh with Beck or you may want to cry for what might have been.

To sum up, this is a police procedural par excellence.