Friday, June 14, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 11 review

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What the heck. I've got some free time, Book Off is just a 5 minute walk from the apartment, and Q.E.D. isn't that bad of a series. The first 20 books are only 105 yen each ($1.10 USD), so I'll probably keep buying them. Book Off doesn't have the complete set though, so I'll be picking them up out of sequence.

Q.E.D., vol. 11, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B-
There's not much new to say about the series as a whole. The artwork is pretty much tweaked by book 11, so the characters you see now are more-or-less the same all the way up to volume 36. There is some aging going on over the 16 years that the series has been running, but it's still very gradual. The two stories this time had run in Magazine Great in 2001, and were published in book form in Nov. of that year.

Yorube no Umi (A Sea to Depend On). The story starts out with a faceless man writing a confession letter in front of a computer. As detailed in the letter, there's a flashback to a scene 40 years earlier, when 4 kids dared each other to swim out to a tiny island, called Horse Rock, 2 kilometers away, in the dead of night. Three of them make it to the island, and then started wondering what happened to the fourth. Later, the missing boy's body turns up on a beach downshore, and the kid's father demands to know what happened, but the remaining three keep their mouths shut. Back in the present, Kana and Touma's school class have a field trip to the same beach, but Kana is confused. She'd told her father about the trip, and he reminisced about the soft sand and quiet surf. What she's seeing now is a tourist resort with food stalls, a yacht harbor, and big waves. A local security officer tells them that the yacht harbor went up a few years earlier, bringing in extra business, and the construction ended up changing the undertow currents and water salinity, making the waves stronger.

Kana overhears a conversation between two men that had received a strange letter talking about someone wanting to confess about the "accident" 40 years ago. One, Saburo, is angry about this distraction from his own family and a possible promotion to school principal. The other, Koukichi, is equally concerned, but more willing to talk to the dead boy's father, Naito (his son was Ryuusuke). The remaining guy, Kazuaki, hasn't shown up at the beach yet. That night, Koukichi is found near Horse Rock, drowned. The next night, Kazuaki disappears. While the police search the waters for his body, Naito is seen chasing Saburo with a sickle in what appears to be a murder attempt. So, who wrote the letter, and what really happened that night so long ago?

Fuyu no Doubutsuen (Winter Zoo). Kana finds a manuscript that's been dropped in front of a book kiosk, and Touma determines who the owner is. The unkempt man reclaims it and on hearing Touma's explanatory deduction, declares him the greatest boy detective in Japan. In the next scene, the man's ghost is hovering over a dead body placed inside a lion's cage, and he blames everything on the corpse. Kana's father is called to investigate the death, and it's determined that the body is of an editor at the publisher the unkempt author was going to visit, and he'd died of hypothermia. It's in the middle of winter now, and the assumption is that the editor had gotten drunk, climbed into the cage, and froze in his sleep. The problem is that the groundskeeper had driven by at 5 AM, and he claims the cage was empty at that time. 10 minutes later, on his return trip, he saw the body and called the police. One of the CSI experts notices a bite mark on the back of the editor's neck, and a zookeeper says it matches the Japanese ringed grass snake (yamakagashi). The grass snake is poisonous, but doesn't have fangs. It's an egg eater, and the only way it could have struck the victim is if someone else held it against the guy's neck. So, this is obviously a murder case, but there's no way the murder could have happened within the 10 minutes between the groundskeeper's rounds, and a search of the grounds fails to yield up the snake. Additionally, the would-be author is later discovered to have committed suicide by jumping off the roof of his apartment building. As the case drags on, the ghost of the author tries to find ways of communicating with his potential savior - the boy detective he met earlier.

Comments: Overall, the two stories are pretty convoluted. There's a lot of misdirection, and I have trouble figuring out along the way who-dunnit, partly because the actual killer is too obvious and the main motive doesn't get explained until the end. Generally, the stories have a very logical explanation, and there's some science or math involved in the lead-up. Which is why Winter Zoo is a bit jarring, with the ghost of the victim trying to talk to Touma through Kana. This story doesn't really fit in with the rest of the series, especially when compared to the second half of the volumes (issues 20 on up). Otherwise, it's recommended if you like mysteries.

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