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C.M.B., vol. 12, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
(Shinra finally gets to meet Ray Black again.)
Fuudei (Clay Seal, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
Pierre Cohen is a curator at the Louvre, in Paris. He's in charge of the safekeeping of clay urns from Mesopotamia. The urns had been used for transporting goods between cities several thousand years ago, and the process was to put a clay tablet recording the shipment inventory in the urn, and then sealing the cover of the urn with a special twist of clay. The merchant's mark would be embossed on the clay twist before it dried. The only way to open the urn would be to destroy the seal. However, by using x-rays, Pierre has discovered that all of the larger urns have had the inventory tablets removed without damaging the seals. He and Matilla Collin, the x-ray specialist, decide that they can't call the police, so they contact the British Museum instead. A few days later, Shinra and Tatsuki have arrived in Paris, and they're now waiting for one of Shinra's "fathers". Suddenly, the guards push the tourists back to allow a parasailer to land. Shinra rushes to greet the guy, calling out "Ray". Ray Black is an older, thinner guy that is absolutely reckless. He flies off to put his gear away, then joins the others inside the Louvre. Pierre explains the problem, and Ray is willing to let Shinra solve the case.
(Shinra and the clay seals.)
At the same time, Tatsuki is boiling over, waiting to demand an answer from Ray as to why he allowed Shinra to come to Japan on his own. At dinner that night, Shinra tells her that when he and his mother were living in Borneo, Ray joined them. They were at a river and Ray had thrown him over a short waterfall and jumped into the water after him. He saw all the fish swimming in a pool and that was when he fell in love with nature. When they surfaced, his mother grabbed him, kneed Ray in the face and told him to stay away from her boy. The next day, Ray tells Tatsuki that all three of the museum curators loved Haruna Sakaki, Shinra's mother, and were devastated when she passed away. That's why they were willing to adopt her son. When he was old enough, Shinra ran away by himself to start his museum in Japan, and they weren't able to track him down right away. As he leaves, Ray says that they are going to solve the case of the clay seals by setting up a trap. And for traps, you need bait.
------ Spoilers ------
The trick is to wrap a towel around the top of the urn and then tighten it until the weakest part of the seal - the twisted ends - pops apart. This only works on the larger urns; the bands will break for the smaller ones. But, neither Shinra nor Ray knows who the culprit is. They leave the investigation at this point and Shinra and Tatsuki go to the airport to head home. Actually, they do know, but there's no proof. As Shinra explains the answer, Matilla, the x-ray specialist, who had been the last one to handle the urns after x-raying them, and had taken the tablets out for sale on the blackmarket, tries to sneak up on the boy to stab him with a knife before he can make his report in England. Matilla is about to attack when Ray leaps out of the crowd and wrestles him to the ground. When the police escort Matilla away, Tatsuki remembers Ray's comment about needing bait for a trap. She yells at Shinra that he can never see Ray again.
Lots of history about caravan practices in Mesopotamia, the use by merchants of personalized hand-held seals for embossing the clay urns, and we get to learn more about Shinra's mother.
(Toki, her son and daughter-in-law, and the tax accountant enjoying a nice quiet dinner.)
Rouba to Saru (An Old Woman and a Monkey, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
One of Tatsuki's grandfather's friends needs help cleaning up a storage room, so Tatsuki and Shinra spend the day at the home of Toki Hinogure. Toki is getting on in age and has been in and out of the hospital for respiratory problems. She also has a pet monkey, named Hihimaru, that likes wrestling Shinra to the ground. During the evening, Toki is visted by her adult son, Hayao, and his wife, Chika; and by Takeshi Umiyama, a tax accountant. Chika argues with Hayao over a rumor that Toki will bequeath all her money to the monkey, and if he doesn't confront his mother over this, she'll divorce him. Additionally, Toki wants her money back from Takeshi, and he asks for more time on the loan. Tatsuki doesn't like the murderous atmosphere in the house and she figures that Toki is in danger. Everyone is going to sleep over for the night, so before going to bed, Tatsuki tells Toki to lock her door, and then she sets up a guard post in the hallway to watch the door. She wakes up the next morning as Chika bangs on the door to get Toki to wake up. There's no answer and Hayao tells them to call an ambulance and the police. A locksmith unlocks the door. Inside, Toki is lying dead on her bed, with Hihimaru sitting on her chest.
(Toki goes to bed without eating.)
Det. Kujirazaki is assigned to the case, and he tells them that the cause of death was neurotoxin poisoning - someone had access to the fugu puffer fish. At first, the poison was found in the bottle of water that Tatsuki had given Toki that night, but that's not directly related to the case. Toki had complained of stomach problems and didn't eat dinner with the others. The only other option is that someone trained the monkey to unlock the door so they could slip into the room while Tatsuki was asleep. Questions: How did the killer get the poison to Toki, and was she really the intended target?
No history or science, although there are some nice pictures of wind-up dolls and swords in the storeroom. When Shinra asks what will happen to Hihimaru, Kujirazaki answers that it will be either sent to a zoo or a care center, so Shinra decides to solve the case in order to take the monkey in to his museum.
(The fortune teller recognizes the famous actress and asks if his nephew is dating her.)
Chan no Yuurei (The Actress Sees Ghost, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
Tienraku Tin is a detective in Hong Kong working on an open case in which a businessman fell from the roof of his building into a dumpster and was killed on impact. It's ruled as accidental, but when Tin is walking past the front desk, he hears a reporter asking the guard about an earlier accident where a car hit a guardrail and went over a cliff into the ocean. Back in Japan, Shinra and Tatsuki are visiting a Chinese fortune teller because the boy has become fascinated with an old fortunetelling board called a Luopan. The old man, Kaiman Uon, is irritated and keeps saying that he won't sell the board. At that time, Tin comes into the shop to ask his uncle for help. Tin has been assigned to escort the actress Shinrin Chan and her manager, Shouchon Shuu to see a fortuneteller. Shinrin claims to be haunted by a ghost, and Kaimon performs an exorcism for her. But, the ceremony backfires and she sees the ghost even more.
(Shinra asks why Shinrin only sees the ghost near water.)
A big festival is coming up and the government has selected Shinrin as their chief hostess for the event. But, she's coming unraveled and turning into an emotional wreck. The ghost sightings occur whenever she's near water - by a fish aquarium, on a ferry boat, or when swimming in a pool. Tatsuki had seen her in an alley in Chinatown, asking an old woman for a da siu yan (to have a curse placed on someone). Eventually, Tin realizes that the body in the dumpster belongs to Yan Chin'u who had once been rumored to have been dating Shinrin. Then, a video surfaces on the net purporting to show someone coming out of the building stairwell and pushing Yan over the edge. The video is a fake, but it may be intended to blackmail Shinrin. When the big day comes, Shinrin is a quivering mess and her manager is completely unable to get her to go to work.
(Shinra plays with the feng shui board.)
Questions: Why is Shinrin being haunted? Could she have been the one that caused the other car to go through the railing into the ocean? Who made the fake video and why? The night Yan died, someone had been seen pushing a big trunk into his building and a big puddle of water was found inside the elevator, is that relevant?
No science, just mentions of the use of the luopan and da siu yan. Shinra agrees to solve the case in exchange for the luopan (Kaiman tells Tatsuki that it's just an old board, and he's been having fun pulling the boy's leg over it).
Conclusion: I liked Clay Seal, and the personality of Ray Black. The trick with the towel isn't all that clever, but the information about the seals is interesting. The trick in An Old Woman and a Monkey is very simple and the motive is basically just bad timing. The Actress Sees Ghost is very convoluted, and harks back to the old Columbo TV series again. All three stories are equally entertaining, but I recommend this book if you want to see one of Shinra's fathers and learn more about his mother.