Friday, September 27, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 30 review

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Q.E.D., vol. 30, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Some background on EF-50.)

Ningyou Satsujin (The Mannequin Murders, Great Magazine, 2008). Shunji Nashida, from Internal Affairs, is back. He's called in to investigate a "murdered mannequin". The thing had a knife through its forehead and had been thrown onto the street in Setagaya Ward (a little west of Shibuya). Later, another mannequin with a knife in its forehead is found hanging by a rope around its neck in Yoyogi Park (east of Setagaya). Both mannequins had business cards in the jacket pockets, the first for Kanroku Kakogawa and the second for Gorou Kishiwada. Both men are top executives of a company called Good Medicine. A little later, Gengo Kusatsu, a section leader at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, gets slashed by a guy riding a scooter in Jingu-Kyuujou (Jingu Baseball Stadium). Nashida links the three to a top secret chemical weapons research project for something called EF-50. Based on his agency's secret files database, there was one worker-related death during the project (cancer) and it was dropped and everyone reassigned. Touma has Kana pass a piece of paper to Nashida, with the clue "look at the crime scenes on a map". Nashida and Kana are stunned to see that they're in a straight line with the next possible attack being at the National Diet building. According to the EF-50 files, one other participant was Kyousuke Kesennuma, currently a cabinet minister of the Ministry of Welfare. Nashida orders security guards to protect Kesennuma, but he ditches them for a cigarette break at the same time that a guy on a scooter kills Heiji Kouriyama, sales manager of Mikiri Pharmaceuticals. The murder scene is near the diet, implicating Kesennuma. And, it turns out that Heiji handled the clinical trials of EF-50 for Kesennuma.

(Heiji gets killed)

During the final attack, Touma goes on a tangent for why he thinks humanoid robots will never catch on with customers. As an example, compare an unmanned bulldozer with a big human-like robot. If there's a landslide, the bulldozer just looks like a crushed bug, while the robot looks like a dead body. If female robot maids are used to care for the elderly, eventually the owners will feel guilty and stop ordering the robots around. Touma then relates the story of Pygmalion, an ancient Greek sculptor that falls in love with one of his statues. The point is that it's too easy to get enamored with your vision of something and to forget what it really is. This is a hint pointing at the real killer, and the purpose of the minor crimes leading up to the big one.

The only science relates to the history of EF-50 and a little DNA testing on hairs found with the mannequins. Plus, we learn about Pygmalion. The interesting thing is that the killer isn't someone sympathetic this time, and the reader is expected to be happy that he's caught in the end.

Inu no Chawan (Dog Dish, Great Magazine, 2008). Bravo Makita is a great salesman. He leads a group of senior citizens through a series of minor purchases for things like knives and cooking pots, up to spending $3000 on $50 mattresses. Three of the victims are Ryouichirou Arai, Takiko Sekine and Shounosuke Murasawa. The next day, Arai and Murasawa are playing shogi at a club/restaurant run by Sekine, when Arai's grandson, Katsuyuki, storms in to complain about his grandfather throwing away money that could be used for his college costs. Touma has been learning shogi by playing someone via a net server and he's at the club to play face to face against live opponents. When Katsuyuki leaves, the three older people talk about how they've been swindled. Touma has heard about the guy hiding behind Bravo Makita - a con artist named Bunji Kuramatsu. Bunji hires sales people to work the marks on stage, and then when the police arrive, the sales guys take the fall. If the marks demand their money back, Bunji says "I'd love to do that, but there's no money for me to return to you". So far, the police haven't been able to pin anything on Bunji that will stick. However, Kana forces Touma to do something, so he makes a phone call.

(Bunji doesn't like Bravo's attitude.)

The next day, the group borrows a $30,000 ceramic dish from a potterer, and sets up a story where Sekine's dog is eating from the dish at a restaurant that Bravo frequents. He'd immediately recognize the value of the bowl, but before he can ask about it, Arai is to step in and counter-bid on the dog, to create a bidding war that will drive the price up to the $15,000 that the group wants back. During their research, though, Kana learns that Bravo is training a new sales recruit - Katsuyuki. And Katsuyuki has been brown-nosing Bravo to get him to stand up against Bunji, a tactic that fails badly and results in Bunji assaulting Bravo to put him in his place. At the end, when Bravo returns to the restaurant to buy the dog, the bowl has been returned to the potterer and the group is trying to get Bravo to accept the bait and switch. Then Bunji shows up with Katsuyuki and the potterer in tow and it looks like the entire plan is about to go down the drain. The only question is: Who did Touma call first to start the ball rolling?

No science. Just a game of sting.

Comments: This volume just contains two straight-forward mysteries with a bit of puzzle solving. Nothing really great, although it's nice if you want to see what a few parts of Tokyo look like. Recommended. (Note, in the volume #29 review I'd mentioned that there's an in-joke with the characters' names. But, I can't find anything quite so obvious in this book.)

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