Forbrydelsen (Eng. The Killing) (2007) by Soren Sveistrup

My attention span for watching TV programmes has become progressively worse since the advent of easily portable internet capable devices but remembering the hype about this show from almost 10 years ago, I decided that something with subtitles would force me to concentrate 100% on what I was watching and stop me being distracted.

Episode 1 of 20 begins with DCI Sarah Lund’s final day on the Copenhagen police force before she is due to move to Sweden with her son Mark to start a new life with her boyfriend Bengt. However the finding of a video store card (remember those?) and a woman’s underwear leads to the discovery of a vicious rape and murder. Initially forced to stay on by her boss, she ultimately becomes obsessed with the case, with serious ramifications for both her professional and personal life.

Her partner, Jan Meyer, is the man who was due to replace her, which gives their relationship a distinct edge, exacerbated by the fact that he is a heavy smoker and she is trying to quit.

The story unfolds primarily around three groups of people: the police, the victim’s family, and, for reasons which quickly become clear, those involved in the election for city mayor.

For fans of the Golden Age, there is a neat dying message clue – which I think an observant person may be able to make use of, not that I did – and a most unusual alibi.

Each episode ends in some form of cliffhanger and after watching an episode every day I binged the last eight over three evenings so it definitely does draw you in. Unbelievably when originally screened in Denmark, there was a six month break half-way through!

It hasn’t done much for my Danish – I could say thank you, wife, and answer the phone – but if you’re looking for something to wile away the long winter nights of lockdown phase 2 you could do a lot worse than give this a go and attempt to work out who killed Nanna Birk Larsen.

 

 

 

Mystery on Southampton Water (1934) by Freeman Wills Crofts

A number of GAD authors could start a book with a board meeting but when the directors work for the Joymount Rapid Hardening Cement Manufacturing Company you know you’re reading Freeman Wills Crofts.

JRHCMC had been recovering from the Great Depression but now a close competitor, Chayle’s, is undercutting them and the future is bleak. Their chemical engineer, King, has analysed Chayle’s product and found that it contains an additional element. If he can identify how it is made then the firm may be able to save themselves from ruin.

King makes insufficient progress in his experiments and determines to gain the secret of the new process by illegal means and persuades Brand, the finance director, to help him, overcoming his argument that what he intends to do is plain theft by saying:

“And what about their stealing our jobs? They were doing quite well out of their concern. We were all making our living comfortably and satisfactorily. Then they see how they can make some more. Do they think about us? No, we may starve, so that they can double their share. What about that? Do you think it’s not legitimate to protect ourselves against that sort of thing?”

Their scheme does not go according to plan but after a bad night of unpleasant work they believe they have successfully covered their traces. Enter Chief Inspector Joseph French who will meticulously follow every lead until he brings his men to justice.

This is very much a morality play as we see the consequences for the weak Brand of one bad decision that leads inevitable to greater wrongdoing. The third quarter adds in an additional moral dimension from which none escape unscathed.

I haven’t read “Crime at Guildford” yet but of the other five recently reprinted French cases this is the top of the pile. It is a well structured inverted mystery which then throws a few curve balls at the reader in the second half. There was one aspect that I wasn’t happy with at the time but which was later satisfactorily explained.

Here’s hoping that HarperCollins treat us to another half-dozen Crofts’ sometime soon!

 

 

#58 – 4.50 from Paddington

“Oh, Jane,” she wailed. “I’ve just seen a murder!”

True to the precepts handed down to her by her mother and grandmother – to wit: that a true lady can neither be shocked nor surprised – Miss Marple merely raised her eyebrows and shook her head, as she said:

Most distressing for you, Elspeth, and surely most unusual. I think you had better tell me about it at once.”

During the short time that her train was running alongside another, the blind opposite popped open, allowing Mrs McGillicuddy to have seen the back of man as he strangled a woman. Neither the railway authorities nor the police are interested in her story, particularly when no body is discovered.

Miss Marple however knows that Elspeth McGillicuddy is the last person to have invented such a scenario and determines that she will try to find out the truth of the matter.

With information gathered from various sources she is able to reconstruct the crime and finds that there is one area where a body may have been disposed of, near to Rutherford Hall. She persuades super servant Lucy Eyelesbarrow to take a position there with instructions to search the neighbourhood for a corpse, which she duly finds.

These opening chapters are the strongest aspect of the book – Miss Marple is very Inspector French-like in her method of checking train timetables and embarking on several journeys herself to figure out how a body could have been removed from the train unseen.

We then move into a typical Christie family situation when the men of the Crackenthorpe family all assemble at Rutherford Hall and the police investigate whether anyone has any knowledge of who the dead woman may be.

The story moves upon nicely until we get to a pair of somewhat unnecessary late murders before a set-piece denouement which is almost as good as the opening scene but the identity of the killer comes straight from Miss Marple’s intuition and their motivation has been made known to the police but not really hinted to the reader. And whilst coincidence often plays a role in GAD fiction, there is a massive one involved here, which surely could have been handled better.

Interestingly, Miss Marple feels too old for any more adventures and takes a back seat in proceedings, so she must get a second wind when she later takes a trip to the West Indies and then traipses round the country on a coach tour – perhaps the spirit of Nemesis has a rejuvenating effect!

Recurring character development

Miss Marple

Her current maid is described as “elderly”.

Makes her own cowslip wine.

Her nephew Raymond West had retained Lucy’s services to look after Miss Marple when she was recovering from pneumonia. He has two sons; David, the younger, works for British Railways.

She is often invited to the vicarage for Christmas dinner. This is still home to the Clements who were central characters in “The Murder at the Vicarage”.

Her handwriting is “spiky and spidery and frequently underlined”.

Supports capital punishment, at least in this case, and laments that is has been abolished. This is not strictly true as the Homicide Act 1957 allowed for the use of the death penalty for six types of murder, one of which was committing two murders on separate occasions in Great Britain.

Signs of the Times

The murder takes place on Friday 20th December which places the start of the story in 1957, the year of publication. The investigation takes place in January 1958, so when Alexander talks about Stoddart-West’s parents taking him out to see the Test match in Australia next year, he is referring to the 1958-59 Ashes series, which England would go on to lose 4-0.

Alfred Crackenthorpe worked for the Ministry of Supply during WWII. This ministry was created in 1939 to co-ordinate the supply of equipment to all three forces of the British military. It was abolished in 1959.

References to previous works

The business at Little Paddocks is mentioned a number of times which was documented in “A Murder is Announced” and there are some vague spoilers towards the end of this book about that case.

The Blue Hammer (1976) by Ross Macdonald

I only read this because I picked it up as part of a job lot of the “Library of Crime” series but thought I’d briefly post about it as it tied in nicely with JJ’s latest podcast.

Although it was written in the Seventies and is actually the last of the Lew Archer novels in a series that began in 1949 it begins with two classic GAD tropes: a stolen painting which may have been painted by a man who disappeared twenty five years ago never to be seen again. This is followed by murders in the present day which may have a connection to a thirty year old murder. The solution itself is as twisty as anything from the Golden Age and yet it’s not a book that I can imagine re-reading.

I think this book has helped to clarify why I generally don’t like private eye stories. Like many this is told in the first person and I think having the detective as narrator is a problem because they often keep their cards close to their chest both from other characters and the reader and they tend to work alone. The classic detective either has their own Watsonesque sidekick or works alongside the police and so you get a back and forth of ideas generally culminating with a big reveal and explanation. In this book you don’t get that sense of progression of the detective’s ideas, any idea of how they have built a case – events happen, people talk, and the truth is found, but not really through any deduction on the part of the detective which to me is unsatisfactory.

Having said all that, this afternoon I picked up an omnibus of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Dain Curse” and “The Glass Key”, but as it was an Everyman Library hardback for just £1, what else was I supposed to do? Here’s to detective fiction in all its guises!

Roseanna (1965) by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (translated by Lois Roth)

Following the publication in 1948 of their novel “The Toys of Death”, G.D. H. and M. Cole retired from the field of detective fiction. Their mantle of partnered-socialist-crime writers was not taken back up until 1965 when Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote “Roseanna” the first installment of a planned ten part saga, to be known collectively as “The Story of a Crime” which would shine a light on their belief that “there’s something rotten in the state of Sweden”.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a fellow-traveller to enjoy this series which traces the career of their central character, Martin Beck, over a period of ten years.

Beck is almost an anti-Maigret: Maigret is a happily married man, slightly regretful that they have been unable to have children, but generally content with his lot, whereas for Beck:

“One year after the birth of their daughter, there wasn’t much left of the happy and lively girl he had fallen in love with and their marriage had slipped into a fairly dull routine.”

Maigret is constantly eating and drinking but Beck can barely stomach any kind of food. Fate smiles upon Maigret and gifts criminals into his hands but for Beck, this particular case at least, is hard and misfortune dogs his steps, particularly when his trap is eventually sprung.

This book begins when a dredger unearths the body of a young woman from the Göta Canal. No one of her description has been reported missing and so it takes some time before she is identified as the titular “Roseanna”. Even this is scant information and it takes even longer before Beck comes up with a means that might, just might, give them more information on who her killer was. This is followed by a tense scene as we see the police reviewing key pieces of evidence, praying that it will give them what they are looking for. More dogged police teamwork finds a suspect but can they bring him to justice?

This is definitely a police procedural rather than clued whodunnit, but through the series we do see nods to the Golden Age. The next book “The Man Who Went Up In Smoke” if I recall correctly has a Croftsian style plot, “The Laughing Policeman” includes a variant of a well-worn trope and there is even the ironic “The Locked Room” which amused me although not recommended for those seeking an innovate howdunnit.

You may not like the torrent of Scandi-noir that has appeared since Sjöwall and Wahlöö started their series, but there is no denying the influence that they have had on the direction of crime fiction and it is worth reading at least one Beck just for that.

#57 – Dead Man’s Folly

Mrs Oliver is organising a Murder Hunt at the Nasse House summer fête. She has a feeling that something is not quite right and calls Hercule Poirot down to investigate. He finds nothing amiss until the victim of the game is murdered in the same way as Mrs Oliver’s story and another person has disappeared.

This is one of Christie’s best hooks and I was very excited to read it first time round and remember being quite disappointed but on re-reading I’m not sure why. It’s not great but it’s not bad.

There is a nice episode where Inspector Bland proves that murder could be done in front of hundreds of onlookers with no suspicion raised.

The pleasure and hilarity of the summer fête is in sharp contrast to a callous killer, and sadly it is not just they who are guilty of a terrible crime. After the unusual setting for last month’s Hickory Dickory Dock, this is a welcome return to a traditional Christie scene.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Has moved since “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” as his telephone number is now Trafalgar 8137.

Takes his tea with very little milk and four lumps of sugar. Opts to have a creamcake rather than sandwiches.

Never risks going out in the evening air with an uncovered head.

Is a friend of the Eliots, who are known to Mrs Masterman.

Met Inspector Bland fifteen years ago when the policeman was a sergeant in an unrecorded case.

Enjoys doing jigsaws.

Mrs Oliver

Bases her book “The Woman in the Wood” on the outline of the Murder Hunt.

Signs of the Times

Sir George owns a large Humber saloon. Thomas Humber (1841-1910) designed bicycles and his name was given to a limited company that also started to manufacture cars. By 1960 they had an annual production of over 200,000 but the business was undercapitalised and was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1967.

There is a Youth Hostel near to Nasse House. The British Youth Hostels Association was formed in 1930 but shortly split into separate associations for England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. By the end of 1931 there were 60 hostels, with a flat charge of one shilling per night. In the book guests may only stay for up to two nights.

Captain Warburton says that he will go and talk to the people responsible for the tea tent “like a Dutch uncle”. This means in a harsh or admonitory manner; the opposite of the avuncular manner expected of an uncle. During the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century, “Dutch” was added as a pejorative prefix to a number of words to change the meaning e.g. Dutch courage (bravery induced by alcohol), Dutch wife (prostitute) and even Dutch nightingale (frog).

The Spenser quote “Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas…” is from Book One of “The Faerie Queene” (1590).

Poirot wins a large Kewpie doll at the hoop-la. He thinks it is horrible and gives it to a young girl. Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) created these baby cupid characters for a comic strip in 1909 and started making them as paper dolls. In 1912 they started to be made from bisque in Germany. Poirot was right – they are hideous.

One of the Tucker boys is doing his National Service. The National Service Act 1948 required all young men aged 17-21 to serve for 18 months in the Armed Forces and then remain on the reserve list for 4 years. Calls ups ended at the end of 1960 with the last men serving leaving in 1963.

Lady Stubbs is described as being “dressed up like a mannequin of Jacques Fath or Christian Dior”. Fath (1912-54) and Dior (1905-57) along with Pierre Balmain (1914-82) are considered the three dominant influences on post-WWII fashion, although if I’m anything to go by only Dior has remained in the public consciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#57 – Dead Man’s Folly – WITH SPOILERS

Mrs Oliver is organising a Murder Hunt at the Nasse House summer fête. She has a feeling that something is not quite right and calls Hercule Poirot down to investigate. He finds nothing amiss until the victim of the game is murdered in the same way as Mrs Oliver’s story and another person has disappeared.

This is one of Christie’s best hooks and I was very excited to read it first time round and remember being quite disappointed but on re-reading I’m not sure why. It’s not great but it’s not bad.

There is a nice episode where Inspector Bland proves that murder could be done in front of hundreds of onlookers with no suspicion raised.

The pleasure and hilarity of the summer fête is in sharp contrast to a callous killer, and sadly it is not just they who are guilty of a terrible crime. After the unusual setting for last month’s Hickory Dickory Dock, this is a welcome return to a traditional Christie scene.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Has moved since “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” as his telephone number is now Trafalgar 8137.

Takes his tea with very little milk and four lumps of sugar. Opts to have a creamcake rather than sandwiches.

Never risks going out in the evening air with an uncovered head.

Is a friend of the Eliots, who are known to Mrs Masterman.

Met Inspector Bland fifteen years ago when the policeman was a sergeant in an unrecorded case.

Enjoys doing jigsaws.

Mrs Oliver

Bases her book “The Woman in the Wood” on the outline of the Murder Hunt.

Signs of the Times

Sir George owns a large Humber saloon. Thomas Humber (1841-1910) designed bicycles and his name was given to a limited company that also started to manufacture cars. By 1960 they had an annual production of over 200,000 but the business was undercapitalised and was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1967.

There is a Youth Hostel near to Nasse House. The British Youth Hostels Association was formed in 1930 but shortly split into separate associations for England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. By the end of 1931 there were 60 hostels, with a flat charge of one shilling per night. In the book guests may only stay for up to two nights.

Captain Warburton says that he will go and talk to the people responsible for the tea tent “like a Dutch uncle”. This means in a harsh or admonitory manner; the opposite of the avuncular manner expected of an uncle. During the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century, “Dutch” was added as a pejorative prefix to a number of words to change the meaning e.g. Dutch courage (bravery induced by alcohol), Dutch wife (prostitute) and even Dutch nightingale (frog).

The Spenser quote “Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas…” is from Book One of “The Faerie Queene” (1590).

Poirot wins a large Kewpie doll at the hoop-la. He thinks it is horrible and gives it to a young girl. Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) created these baby cupid characters for a comic strip in 1909 and started making them as paper dolls. In 1912 they started to be made from bisque in Germany. Poirot was right – they are hideous.

One of the Tucker boys is doing his National Service. The National Service Act 1948 required all young men aged 17-21 to serve for 18 months in the Armed Forces and then remain on the reserve list for 4 years. Calls ups ended at the end of 1960 with the last men serving leaving in 1963.

Lady Stubbs is described as being “dressed up like a mannequin of Jacques Fath or Christian Dior”. Fath (1912-54) and Dior (1905-57) along with Pierre Balmain (1914-82) are considered the three dominant influences on post-WWII fashion, although if I’m anything to go by only Dior has remained in the public consciousness.

SPOILERS

We are given a number of hints that Sir George is guilty but this is obfuscated by Poirot’s feeling that, although he would normally suspect the husband in a case of uxoricide, he is devoted to his wife. Which of course he is – but it isn’t this wife that he has murdered!

We are directed to Sir George initially because it is the country squire who commits the murder in Mrs Oliver’s game.

The reasons for the murder are also given amongst the possible motives listed of what Marlene might have seen: someone burying a body or recognising that someone is not who they say they are –  in this case neither George nor Hattie is the genuine article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning Chinese #7: Death in the House of Rain (2006) written and translated by Szu-Yen Lin

Another Oriental locked room mystery, another uniquely shaped house, this time in the shape of the Chinese character for rain.

A year ago the owner, Jingfu Bai, his wife and their daughter, were all brutally killed. The man seen hurrying from the scene took his own life whilst in police custody and the case was closed. But on the anniversary of the triple-tragedy Death returns once more to the House of Rain.

Jingfu’s brother, Renze has taken possession of the palatial country house – it contains, amongst other things, a piano room, a movie room, badminton hall, tennis court and probably room for a pony as well (the three-storey floor plan is an aficianado’s dream) – and has invited Ruoping Lin to re-open the investigation. His daughter, Lingsha, has university friends staying for the weekend and one by one they start to die in violent and impossible ways.

This is another excellent story with a beautiful piece of cluing which in hindsight is so obvious but I completely overlooked it at the time. The identity of the killer is culturally appropriate although I can see that some could be disappointed. The characters do act as stupidly as if they were in  a horror movie – leaving their bedrooms alone on the slightest provocation: I know you are temporarily cut-off from the outside world, but stock up from the kitchen and lock yourself in your room until the police do arrive – but then this is a staple of crime fiction from the Golden Age. The weekend houseparty always continues regardless of the fact that a murder has been committed.

Detailed Spoilers (highlight to read): I’m sure the basic premise has been used elsewhere – I’ve just never come across it before and I didn’t pick up on it even though I’d just read a completely different book where a woman was died when her feet were cut off by a lift – but the way that Lin uses it to explain an impossible beheading, strangling, fall from nowhere, a faked suicide, and then in the epilogue relates it back to the original case, is so wonderfully thorough. And even the title is fairplay – we’re primarily not dealing with murder here, just death, although our (incorrect) assumption is that murder is what has taken place.

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

#56 – Hickory Dickory Dock

Poirot’s most efficient secretary, Miss Lemon, who never makes mistakes has just made three in the same letter. She explains that this must be because she is worried about her sister, Mrs Hubbard, who is the warden of a student hostel. A number of thefts have taken place over the last few months but there seems to be no link between them – the items taken range from a ring and a bracelet to electric lightbulbs and boracic powder.

Poirot meets the students in the guise of giving them a lecture on crime but suggests that there is nothing he can do and that the matter should be turned over to the police. This triggers off a series of events that lead to murder.

This is one of the few Christie’s that I saw on TV before reading the book and in this case the TV adaptation is superior. There are too many students in the hostel in the book and only the primary suspects are retained for the Suchet version. The nursery rhyme title has very little to do with the plot but the adaptation used the mouse motif to good effect, creating some interesting camera angles from a ground-level mouse eye’s level perspective. In addition some key information which is just dumped at the end of the book is woven more closely into the main narrative.

There is a nice piece of deduction as Poirot determines which of the thefts are really important, but overall there is too much going on here, including one connection between two characters revealed at the end that seems to come from nowhere.

What is most interesting is some of the attitudes about race, some of which are highlighted by this exchange:

“Really, dear,” said Nigel, “you’re not suggesting that she’s below the age of consent or anything like that, are you? She’s free, white, and twenty-one.”

“That,” said Mr Chandra Lal, “is a most offensive remark.”

“No, no, Mr Chandra Lal, ” said Patricia. “It’s just a – a kind of idiom. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“I do not understand,” said Mr Akibombo. “If a thing does not mean anything, why should it be said?”

We are unlikely to use the phrase that Nigel uses above any more, but there are probably phrases that are common currency which some groups may find offensive, but that the majority group have given no thought to. If someone tells me that they find something I have said is offensive which was unintended, then I shouldn’t need to feel defensive (although I may well) but I should be ready to listen and understand. Being more careful with language as someone from the dominant group costs me very little but could make someone else’s day a little better or a little less worse.

Recurring character development

Hercule Poirot

Now that he can get square crumpets he has nothing to complain about, although I’ve never come across a square crumpet.

Won a memory game called the Three Horned Lady at a Christmas party.

Has met Inspector Sharpe before in the unrecorded “business down at Crays Hill”.

Miss Lemon

Her first name, Felicity, is revealed for the first time.

She is perfecting a new filing system which will be patented and bear her name.

Signs of the Times

Miss Lemon is said to have no imagination and therefore to be unlike “Cortez’s men upon the peak of Darien” a reference to Keats’ poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” which compares his sensations when reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s epics, among other things, to the feelings of Hernan Cortez and his men when they first saw the Pacific Ocean. Keats was actually guilty of misremembering his history as it was actually Vasco Nunez de Balboa who was the first European to see the Pacific.

Reflecting on the triviality of Miss Lemon’s sister’s problem, Poirot thinks of “the parsley sinking into the butter on a hot day” which is how Sherlock Holmes was drawn into “the dreadful business of the Abernetty family” an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”.

Sally Finch is studying in England on a Fulbright scholarship. In 1945 US Senator J. William Fulbright proposed a bill to create an international student exchange programme to be funded from selling surplus war property and equipment. President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1946.

Mrs Nicoletis wants to keep her house attractive to Americans by getting rid of any black tenants as she believes the “colour bar” is important to them, but Mrs Hubbard strongly opposes this.

Celia danced with Nigel at Cambridge in May Week. This celebrates the end of the university’s exam period and, as the Fourth Doctor observed whilst punting in The Five Doctors, now takes place in June.

Poirot says that the shoe was taken as your poet says “to annoy, because he knows it teases”. This is part of a lullaby sung by the duchess to the baby in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

The day after Poirot’s first visit, the Oxford Group is mentioned at breakfast by Jean. This was a Christian movement founded in 1921 by Frank Buchman as First Century Christian Fellowship, becoming the Oxford Group by the end of the 1920s. In 1938 it became Moral Re-Armament and in 2001 Initiatives of Change.

Politics is then added to religion when Chandra Lal mentions the Mau Mau. The derivation of the name is unclear, with the group’s official name being the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. The KLFA rebelled against British colonial rule in 1952 but were defeated in 1956. However their activities paved the way for eventual independence in 1963.

Inspector Sharpe quotes “I know two things about the horse and one of them is rather coarse” which is by the writer Naomi Royde-Smith (1875-1964).

Valerie works at the shop “Sabrina Fair”. DC McCrae considers the name blasphemous as it is from Milton – specifically the 1634 masque “Comus”. It had been used as the title of a 1953 play by Samuel A. Taylor.

References to previous works

One of the students remembers Poirot from reading about the events of “Mrs McGinty’s Dead”.

During his lecture Poirot refers to the soap manufacturer in Liège, an old case which he first mentioned in “The Nemean Lion” in “The Labours of Hercules”.

Poirot turns for information to Mr Endicott who refers to “the nasty Abernethy (sic) business” from “After the Funeral”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning Japanese #6: The 8 Mansion Murders (1989) by Takemaru Abiko (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

Kikuo Hackisuka, owner of a construction company, built his own house in the shape of a digitally-displayed number 8. He had no idea that its very design would inspire someone to commit murder there.

His elder son, Kikuichiro, is the first victim, shot in the middle of the night by a crossbow, and it seems that only one person could possibly have done it. Fortunately for him, Inspector Kyozo Hayami, is more open-minded than some of his colleagues and begins to dig a little deeper. This ultimately results in a second murder but this time there are no possible suspects.

Kyozo is hindered by his hapless subordinate, Kinoshita, who suffers from worsening slapstick-style accidents as the investigation progresses, and helped by his sister and brother. After explaining one minor point which has baffled the police, the latter is allowed to deliver his own Locked Room Lecture* before solving the case.

The solution to the first murder put me in mind of two books by John Dickson Carr: one for a good reason, the other for a bad as there is a small element that could be considered deliberately unfair and didn’t really add anything in my mind. The answer to the second killing I definitely hadn’t come across before but whilst theoretically possible seems unlikely but then most of us don’t read this sort of book expecting likely, practical solutions.

The Locked Room International version includes a fascinating introduction by Soji Shimada and helpful author’s and translator’s end notes which explain some of the Golden Age and cultural references found in the text.

*Both of which include spoilers of varying degrees to other works. I’m afraid I can’t advise what as I skimmed some to avoid titles that I haven’t yet read and don’t want to look at them again.

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